Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Barnhill's for books, wine, and pottery?

Saturday's book signing at Winston-Salem's Barnhill's was fun...despite the cold temperatures. A few customers braved the cold to stop in and say hi, and taste a few of the many offerings in the wine department.

The best part of this past weekend's experience was to visit with Barbara and Bob Campbell, of The Wood 'n' Potter. He's the woodworker, she's the potter. They make lovely items perfect for Christmas gifts (or anytime), and they are delightful people.

That's Stacy in the apron -- in addition to pouring wine, she also is an author and does the cover layouts for books published by Second Wind Publishing. And here's Theas, manager extraordinaire (and budding actress). She'll greet you when you come to Barnhill's, and help you find the book you need to get you through these long, cold days (and nights):

Monday, December 6, 2010

Book signing at Barnhill's this Saturday

Barnhill's Books on Burke Street in Winston-Salem is the next host site for a book signing this Saturday (December 11). If you're in town, come visit me and pick up a copy of The Pirate's Bastard. As extra incentive, they have wine there so you could have a wine tasting! How fun is that?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book signing at Tellabration the best so far

Back when I was single, the prospect of going to the library on a Saturday night was NOT a good wasn't cool, it wasn't hip, and it certainly wasn't a way to attract a date worth having.

I must be getting old.

I had a great time at the library Saturday night! Real fun, listening to very talented story tellers spin their webs and catching the fully packed audience in their webs of laughter or suspense. Add to that the selling of nine books, and lots of friends, and you can see why it was wonderful to be part of the Tellabration! I encourage everyone who loves a good story (or six) to attend next year.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

TELLabration coming this weekend

On Saturday, November 20 at 7:00 p.m., I'll be part of a national event called TELLabration. The cool part is I'll be included from the comfortable surroundings of my local library in Mount Airy. There will be story tellers from the community to round out a night of good tales. This is the first time I've been involved in such an event, so I'm really looking forward to it. Join us for the fun!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A little birdie told me ...

At my book signing in Elizabeth City at Page after Page, one of the lovely young sales people (who is also a writer-- imagine that) asked if I was on Twitter, and I am sure I had a deer-in-the-headlights look about me. So it's come to this, I thought. Ellie had to explain a bit more about what it is and how helpful it is to writers, and I've taken her word for it. I signed up for an account.

As I enter the world of tweeting on Twitter, I marvel at some of the tweets others post. From links to articles (done that) to not-so-stirring reports of what was for dinner, I'm wondering where the happy middle ground is. Twitter is supposed to be a fast way to communicate with others what's happening in a little corner of the world; but how much is too much?

My Dad told me that it was never a good idea to open the kimono too soon when I was younger. My natural tendency is to talk, talk, talk and tell, tell, tell. How boring that must be for anyone (everyone?) around me. Writing, then, is a great channeling mechanism for someone like me. His advice also forced me to become a better listener and observer. One never knows where the story will come from, after all.

Now Twitter is presenting another option. Tell all you want ... in 140 characters. What to tell is the question. I'll keep you posted on how I resolve exactly how far to open the kimono on Twitter.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Elizabeth City book signing was a blast from my past

Saturday was the day for a book signing at Page after Page Books in Elizabeth City. I'd say it went well, both in terms of the quantity of books sold and the quality of the people visiting the store. Only one was absent. Let me explain.

Many years ago, I worked around the corner at the Daily Advance, a newspaper serving the small city and surrounding counties. I was the editor of the Lifestyles section, a position now held by a fellow who graciously ran a story about me on Thursday in the paper. (Thanks to Robert Kelly-Goss!) Back then, the bookstore was owned by Suzan (with a Z) Small, and we became fast friends.

When I set up the book signing, I fully expected her to be my point of contact. I made references to our relationship, and was puzzled by the lukewarm response. Surely, she must remember me, I mused. Arriving at the shop with books in hand, I was greeted by the steady manager Sharon. She showed me to my appointed table and did her paperwork on the books, then returned to her work, leaving me to my own devices.

The book signing now in full progress, I signed books, chatted up the customers, and enjoyed watching sailboats docking across Water Street, remembering my days as a team member on a racing boat, a J-24, that owned the water beyond those docks.

One customer mentioned she'd read the article about me, and tried to piece when I was in town. We compared notes. She asked if I knew her sister-in-law, who used to own this book store.

"You mean Suzan with a Z Small?"

"Yes, she sold it to ANOTHER Susan."

Oh. That explains everything.

Now that we got that straight, the woman was typing a note to Suzan on her I-Pad (or whatever it was). "Tell her I said hey. Long story short, Suzan and I reconnected briefly and virtually -- and her sister-in-law bought a book for her. Small world, neat coincidences.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

First Book Signing Went Well

Pages Books and Coffee in Mount Airy is such a great place to have a book signing! Owners Sandy and Scott are happy to have local writers in, and made me feel right at home. Friend and novelist Jane Tesh (also a resident of our fair village) came to keep me company for an hour -- and we had the best time taking "shop" and visiting with other friends who came to visit (and buy books)! That was, after all, the purpose of the event.

Next stop, Elizabeth City. I'll be at Page after Page November 6. If you're in town on the waterfront there, please stop by.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New project started; history revisited

Now that The Pirate's Bastard is out and Second Wind Publishing as accepted The Mystery of the Phoenix Festival, my next project can begin in earnest. This work is the second in the Called to Serve young readers series. The Mystery of the Phoenix Festival is the first.

While The Pirate's Bastard is intended for adult readers, compared to what is on television and in "G"-rated movies, there's nothing objectionable in there (except the title, perhaps). It's been suggested to me that it might be a great fit for an Accelerated Reader program through schools, and I'm looking into that as a possibility.

The question has come up, though, about my ability to write for adults and young readers. I don't see any reason why a decent story teller can't tell a variety of stories to different audiences. My publisher seems to agree with me. I write in vastly different genres, too. There is a constant in all that I write, though. The constant is history. Even in the Called to Serve series, the mysteries involve history. It might be history of a place, or in the case of the second book, there's rich history in the characters and location shared in a fresh way.

I'll share more about the story as it progresses.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

And we have a winner!

Second Wind Publishing held a drawing for a free book, and I'm pleased to announce the winner is a reader from Kentucky. Her copy of the book will be sent to her today! It's been a long time coming, and I am equally pleased to say, "The Books Finally Came In from the Printer!" (I really was beginning to wonder!)

So for all of you who ordered books already, rest assured that they are being boxed up and shipped out today. Whew!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Maritime history in New Bern takes on new life

I've just returned from the N.C. Maritime History Council's annual conference in New Bern, N.C. Despite the torrential rains and slight street flooding, it was a wonderful experience.

A small disclaimer: I'm partial to New Bern anyway, so visiting there is always a treat to me. Add to the visit great speakers and like-minded people who share my enthusiasm for boats, history, and coast, and such an event could only be fantastic.

Of course, we toured Tryon Palace, the Stanley House, and the Dixon House. Those are mandatory on such a trip; but we also stepped aboard the Ada Mae, a skipjack that has a new lease on life as an educational vessel for children.

A second off-site tour was to Hatteras Yachts, and the final cherry on top of the sundae was a tour through the soon-to-be opened History and Education Center.This highly interactive space was built on the site of the former Balbour boats shipyard. The building's design bows to that history, with architecture reminiscent of a boat shed (allbeit a fancy, light-filled contemporary design). The Center has one of the best views right on the water, and the new exhibits beg to be touched (we couldn't do that since it wasn't quite ready). it will be open in a few weeks and I will definitely go back.

During the conference, I stayed with Camile and Joe, owners of The Hanna House Bed and Breakfast. Talk about your perfect hosts -- and what incredible food! A cheese souffle for breakfast one morning, shrimp and grits another ... I want to tell you that this is the place to stay if you ever go to New Bern. I'll be back in the spring (if not sooner) for a book signing of The Pirate's Bastard and the launch of another novel set in 1943 -- I won't tell you anymore about that one now, but let me just say, New Bern figures prominently in the story.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Launch Party: The Pirate's Bastard!

The publisher is hosting an online launch party for The Pirate's Bastard and a few other new authors on Sept. 29 and 30. If you join us, you'll have chances to win free copies of autographed books and other swell prizes. Save the date and visit the online launch party!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Final proof approved

I got a proof of The Pirate's Bastard this week. After a careful review of every page, I approved it. So any and all errors from this point forward are mine, all mine. I lay claim to them. If any dear readers find errors, they can let me know and I'll fix them before the next print run.

Copies should be available by the end of the month, bringing to a close the long process of getting a book published. Next, the marketing the book begins in earnest. Books to sell! Books to sell! Autographed copies available. Get your copy here from the publisher!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Second Wind Publishing creates promotional video for book!

Stacy, the woman who created the cover of my book, is very gifted. She creates short videos promoting the release of books (or soon-to-be-released ones, in my case). She adds music, the cover, and short enticing blurbs of each one for a quick introduction.

Check out the new one she's created that includes The Pirate's Bastard here.  It's not the first one, but the whole video is short, so you can sit still for it. (Can't you?)

Monday, September 13, 2010

BookMarks Book Festival -- Fun!

Saturday's BookMarks Book Festival was interesting on many levels. First, I met my publisher. Since I submitted my manuscript 1 1/2 years ago, I've talked with him on the phone once, and emailed two dozen times. Second, I got to meet other authors whose books are carried at Barnhill's Bookstore, the bookstore in Winston-Salem that is owned by the publisher. And finally, I got to see lots of people who came to the festival thanks to a shared interest in reading. They braved the rain to hear speakers, talk to authors, and to graciously take bookmarks shoved in their general direction!

As I understood it, the pre-morning crowds were eager to buy books. The rain slowed the purchasing power of the crowd in general. Plus, there were lots of other events going on around town on Saturday, including an air show, a college football game, and the grand opening of a new arts center.

The venue on Trade Street was perfect, with lots of choices for good eats or a hot cuppa something, plenty of parking in the parking garage, and galleries and stores where authors could speak about their books -- these were the scheduled and promoted speakers, some of national fame. There was a children's area, though it was not brimming with activities when I stopped by to see what they had going on there.

In all, it was a good day. I hope the event's planners agree -- it's a worthwhile event to spread the word about books!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Winston-Salem NC BookMarks Book Festival Coming September 11

I'll be at the Winston-Salem BookMarks Book Festival on Saturday, Sept. 11 promoting The Pirate's Bastard and the publisher, Second Wind Publishing. The festival has been around for several years, and this year's event wil be held in the arts district near Trade Street -- a great place for an event! If you're in Winston-Salem Saturday, you're in for a treat with loads of authors, publishers, and fun things to do for adults and children. If you love books, this is the place to be!

Check out this link for more information and directions.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Patience still lives here

My book, The Pirate's Bastard, was originally planned to be released August 15. It's September 6, and I don't have a copy yet. Seems birthing a book is a lot like going on a sailing trip: you can plan to arrive on a certain date, but weather, tides, and mechanical malfunctions can alter an ETA. When announcing a cruise, it's a better thing to give a destination that a date.

I think I shall take that approach -- announcing a destination. My book is going to be released this month. So what's another few weeks, given the big picture? This book took me six years to research and write, then another four to find a publisher. I'm thrilled that Second Wind would see the merit in it. I'm tickled about the way the book has come together, with a fantastic cover. And I'm elated that The Pirate's Bastard is going to see the light of day this month.  In the remaining weeks until it arrives, I'm still tied to the docks, waiting patiently for my weather window.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Proofing and formatting

With a rash of all nighters the likes of which I haven't seen since college days, I've reviewed the formatted copy of The Pirate's Bastard about six times in the last three days. It's starting to look like a book! The next step: another round of proofing a proof, then printing.

The Winston-Salem BookMarks Books Festival is coming up in two weeks, so there's a sense of urgency to get it done by then. What's more important to me is the upcoming NC Nautical History Council annual conference in New Bern at the end of September. I've been invited by the executive director, and you can bet I won't miss that opportunity to connect and present my book with like-minded history lovers! I'm praying the final, 100% accurate, done, and reader-ready version is available in advance so I can go bang on some doors in New Bern, tempting local businesses and historic sites into carrying it.

But it goes beyond this annual meeting: the following weekend in New Bern, Our State Magazine is having a conference/tour. If my books are scattered about town, I hope that will get me some notice. I plan to send a copy as soon as one is ready to Our State, hoping to get it in the October issue. I only hope I'm not too late!

Friday, August 27, 2010

A new story in the works

With the upcoming release of The Pirate's Bastard approaching, I have relaxed a little. Just a little, mind you. In addition to redoing my new website (it's going to be a work-in-progress this weekend), tweaking the marketing efforts for my debut novel's release, and wondering about when my children's story is going to see the light of day in book form, I started a new story.

This means I've been working through character interviews, assigning traits and personalities to each one. I know the storyline fairly well at this point, and the characters are happy to exist in a bare-bones outline. Getting to know them is fun! I'll tell you more later on as the story progresses.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back from the Beach

It was hot. The beach in August usually is, and this trip proved no exception. Still, it was fun -- again, no exceptions to trips to the beach, as it's one of my favorite places on earth. This visit to Sunset Beach was with family, shifts of 14 of us in a rented house a block off the beach. With the exception of one little trip into Calabash designed to take a break from the burning sun, my car sat in the driveway. We walked daily on the beach, played in the surf and a little further out, and marveled at the greatness of the ocean.

At this juncture, some environmentally-minded blogger might tangent about how bad things have become for our world's oceans, or the magnitude of pollutants in the water, or something else of great concern. Don't get me wrong -- I am concerned about the health of waters, and we do our part to keep it clean and use it sparingly. (Spending time on a sailboat makes one very aware of how precious a resource it is, both for drinking and for enjoying.) But the little girl in me still loves to catch a good wave, splash at the water's edge, and watch coquinas dig fervently below the soft sand's surface as a wave rolls back out to sea. I still dream of sailing on the waters to faraway ports, mourning that I do not own a sailboat to go in at this point (or the resources to buy another). And I still look at the waves with wonder, in awe of the ocean's vastness and secrets it gives up only to those who go in search of them.

I recently read Robert F. Burgess' book, They Found Treasure in which he interviewed treasure hunters in Florida. In the company of hunters like Mel Fisher, Burgess learned stories and techniques used during dives that sometimes spanned decades. Given my interest in the subject, you can bet this was the first book of several yet to be read that will help round out a certain character in my next book. I started an outline, and have been writing a little most every day, even while at the beach. I'd like to say I have a first draft nearing completion, but that's not the case. Rather, I have the bulk of a 20-page outline started. Unlike The Pirate's Bastard for which there was no outline, this current work is starting out as a full outline with lots of details and dialog (my favorite part of story telling) that help formulate the direction of the story. I have yet to do a full interview with each character, but that's coming. They are in the process of telling me who they are.

Most all of them love the water. It's the constant that binds us all together, in the end.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Stuff Dreams are Made Of vs. Reality

Book tours, replete with signings. Media blitzes. A dozen film producers calling, each begging to have the rights to my novel. And finally, a walk down the red carpet to the preview ... oh, excuse me, was I daydreaming again?

Who among writers doesn't dream of having great things happen to one's words? I can't be counted in that small number, I am sure. In addition to dreaming about my debut novel, well, debuting, I've dreamed about the characters leaping off the page and onto the big screen. I write visually, thinking of each chapter or cluster of chapters in terms of scenes. In fact, I had a brush with hopefulness a few weeks ago. Thanks to a dear old friend, I was connected to two people -- one an actor, the other a screenwriter/producer. The actor read The Pirate's Bastard, and loved it, saying he could definitely see it as a movie. I was flying high for a few days, until the screenwriter/producer brought my feet back down to earth with realistic and helpful advice: sell a half a million copies, and producers will be calling you. Okay. I get it.

So in an effort to sell half a million books, I'm starting to set up events. I've arranged for half a dozen local events so far, and all it took was a question and a smile. I've got a long, long list of bloggers who write about books. And I'm excited. That should count for something. These are just my first steps.

Do you know of Nicolas Sparks' first steps? He sent his manuscript for The Notebook out to loads of agents, and got one call back from an agent who was filling in for someone who was sick at her office. The story goes that Nicolas asked her how long she'd been an agent, to which she answered six months. Since she was the only one who called, he gave her the deal. She called back shortly to say she had a deal -- a good deal -- for him. A million-dollar book contract, and oh, by the way, movie rights for a few dollars more. Eighteen books later, most of his books have been turned into movies, and he writes the screenplays for each.

The kindly screenwriter/producer I talked with pointed out that agents aren't required to make such a deal. He also told me how to reach producers when I had some sales under my belt. He did caution that although the story might appeal to some, it would probably be cost prohibitive to produce as there's an old ship, a battle at sea, and it's a period piece. Helpful and realistic, again. And I'm so grateful for his advice and time. But it did cause me to wonder more about this topic, and with a little research, I found a novelist/screenwriter -- a somewhat rare combintation, I gather -- who has an excellent blog for both types of writers. She offers nuggets of gold daily, and I am enjoying learning what it takes to get noticed in the grand world of novels-turned-movies. Check Alex out here if this is a topic of interest. If nothing else, she's putting it all out there, just like the kind screenwriter/producer I talked with, and keeping it real.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beyond the Bookstore

One of the great things about Second Wind Publishing is that the company also owns a brick-and-mortor store, Barnhill's Books. This means that all authors published by SW have a readymade shelf awaiting their works, and a staff eager to push them. The store itself is really neat -- it's in an old house on a cool street in Winston-Salem. Hardwood floors and comfy furniture (plus wine tastings from many regional wineries) make it a welcoming space. There's also a children's section, and the staff schedules readings and events for readers of all ages weekly. I'm so pleased to be part of this group!

But I know I'll have to do a lot more than rest in one of those comfy chairs at a signing, waiting for my adoring fans to beat a path to the door. No, I'll have to take my book to the streets ... and papers ... and blogs... and magazines, etc. In other words, everywhere beyond the bookstore.

Since I have a few weeks prior to the launch of The Pirate's Bastard, I've been working ahead in the marketing area. This includes preparing media kit pieces, letters and lists. The media kit is self-explanatory. The letters are for bloggers who might be interested in mentioning the book to their readers. I've written several follow-up letters in that series, too. The lists are filled with various associations, companies, shops, media outlets, bookstores, galleries, and anywhere else I could think of -- places where my book might be a good fit to at least mention of have out on display. Hunting down contact information is easy in the digital age, but there are no guarantees that anyone will actually be interested.

Kinda like this blog. As of today, I've had no visitors. And I'm okay with that. I'm just learning about this marketing tool -- this mode of communication. Next week, I start posting on Second Wind's blog. Each author in the Second Wind family gets a day to post. And since cross-pollination of marketing can often result in a good thing, I might as well have something for others to read here. Besides, it's fun cataloging the steps I'm taking to get my work "out there" -- who knows? It may actually help someone else do it for themselves some day.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New website coming soon

I'm not a website developer, I'll admit it. But I did manage to create a new website for my book (and future works) using my dear husband's Mac and program I-Web. Very intuitive, very easy.

Today, I've spent more time setting up hosting accounts with a host service that will remain nameless for one simple reason: it took me longer to set up the hosting account and email account (and getting that account to jive with Outlook) than it did for me to build the entire website!

The good news is it's all done. Well, nearly. I still have to upload the site files through FTP - which may be a trick, given my husband's Mac has the files, and I'm working on a PC. Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Cover is Done

I am so excited to see the book cover finally finished. The innards of the book are still in progress, with a publication date of August 15. Here's the preview:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Photos and book jackets

Robert Batey, professional photographer (trained architect, artist, and all-around good guy) has agreed to take my photo for the book's jacket! Here's his link: . We'll be snapping away next week. Robert and his family come to the Southern Highlands Craft Fair in Asheville twice a year to shoot artists' works. Their daughter is our son's age, and they get along famously. Seriously nice people.

The book's cover has been an interesting exercise in design, decisions, and pondering. Since many people judge a book by its cover, how does one make that ultimate decision of what it should look like? The designer with Second Wind Publishing has been most patient with me as I dither about this design draft or that (we're up to #9), but I think we're getting really close to perfect now. I'll post it as soon as the cover is ready.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Getting to Picture Perfect

The draft cover didn't look wonderful with the So. African photographer's work after all. Sigh. We're going to try it again, and the publisher's designer assures me that it's okay. Another author's book cover was tweaked 80 times before the perfect cover came to life. Hearing that made me feel better. The designer sent two more drafts using different photos, and plans a few more for the weekend. I have to say, "WOW" to that kind of treatment!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lovely Edenton and Roanoke Island Festival Park

I won't bore you with the details of our recent trip to Edenton, Roanoke Island Festival Park, and Manteo, but I will tell you it was a successful adventure. I took several good photos of the Lost Colonists' ship replica, Elizabeth II,and other boats; we visited with dear friends, and we splashed in ocean after a fine lunch dockside in Manteo.

A worthy trip, given I wanted to take back-up shots for my novel's cover (and to have others on file -- just in case). For those of you who haven't been yet, Festival Park is a great place for children of all ages. There are exhibits, hands-on activities in the museum, and of course the Elizabeth II on which to play first mate (or cast-away, or whatever your heart desires). I heartily recommend it!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Book Cover News

An excellent image taken by South African photographer Lourens Naude will grace the cover of The Pirate's Bastard and I couldn't be more excited. In the next few days, we'll finalize the details, and start posting links.

Speaking of details, I've received two of the three book reviews requested that will appear on the back cover and website. I'm thilled at how it's all coming together.

I'm still working on the marketing plan, and hope to have that nailed down by the end of next week so I can move on to another important task. This marketing stuff could easily become a full-time effort. More about that next time.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

Unless the last name is Grimes, Grisham, or Clancy, authors must market their works. Since my last name isn't any of those listed here, I'm building a plan. It's a good one, but boy, it's going to take a lot of time and work to move books. Writing the book, by comparison, seemed easy! Since this is "my" area (I've been writing and executing marketing plans for businesses of all stripes for over 20 years), I thought I could dash off something quick and make it stick. Nothing doing, though.

In an attempt to capture as much information on how to market a novel, I've visited and revisited dozens of websites and several books I own that each have wonderful nuggets on marketing books. The website/blog is an excellent blog and repository for all things marketing. The author, Pat, is also a Second Wind author, so I know I'm in capable hands when I visit her site.

The book which has held my attention this week is Peter Bowerman's Well-Fed Self-Publisher. While I'm not going the SP route for The Pirate's Bastard, a good bit of what to do in Peter's book still applies. Since my book is truly a "niche" book (historical maritime fiction), I'll be pushing it in less-conventional places, like to historical sites, museums, and associations serving members intersted in the topic. But Peter suggested something that made me go "hmmmm": pushing me to seek speaking gigs at conventions, writers' conferences, and the like. The author status carries some weight in some people's minds, and Peter says it's not necessarily the topic that matters to them. Stay accessible, and the possibilities crop up like weeds.

Really? Now I have to consider how I feel about speaking. Oh, sure, I love to talk (anyone who starts a blog must, I reason). But in front of a room full of people?? I'll have to think about that.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bits and Pieces

I'm working down the long list of items necessary to make a book complete this week and discovered something interesting. Although I can write, write, write about most any subject, coming up with just the right words (and the proper amount of words) to describe me for the "About the Author" section on the back cover is challenging.

How would you explain who you are and what you're like in two sentences? It's an interesting experiment! 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Reviewing the Manuscript ... Again

Today, my task is to read aloud my story. I'm listening for flow, pacing, structure. Yes, I've done this several times in the last few years as I've rewritten, edited, and tried hard to figure out what I needed to improve to have it accepted by an agent or a publisher.

Today though, I'm reading it for me. This is not the absolutely last time I'll have a chance to see my story before it becomes a book, but the manuscript does have to be in near-perfect condition before I send it off to the publisher for layout purposes. I also want it to be as close to perfection before sending it to published authors Jane Tesh and to Claire Wharton, both of whom have agreed to write reviews for the back cover. A third review from James Bartley has already been secured. As former site manager, he was gracious enough to help me when I researched my story's location, NC Historic Site Brunswick Town. He's now moved up the food chain to another position in the NC Cultural Resources division, and agreed to have his comments captured on the back cover. Simply put, he said it was "an awesome story" -- I couldn't have asked for better for my first novel.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Overwhelmed. That's how I felt when I read the "to do" list from Second Wind Publishers -- a good, well-organized list of things I needed to provide them with to make the book, well, a book. Now generally, I'm a list maker of the first magnitude. I make lists for a day's tasks, the typical grocery list, a list of places I want to visit when I can, a list of story ideas I want to explore, a list of goals for life...the list goes on.

To work my way down the list from the publisher showing how many pieces and parts I need to gather and submit, I focused not at the top (a typo-free, error-free, pitch-perfect manuscript) but with an item that falls in the middle of the list: the image for the front cover of the book. Focus may not be the best word. Obsessed might be a better choice.

If a book is judged by its cover, then what could my image say about my work? I wanted something appropriate to the setting, the feel, the style of my tale. I found a magnificently moody black and white photograph by a professional photographer that fits so well with my story. I wrote the photographer to inquire of its price for this purpose.

Suffice it to say, I also have a back-up plan. Last week, I dug through old photographs (I consider myself handy with a camera) and found the one that could work. I wonder if this is actually more appropriate given its location and the setting for my novel (coastal North Carolina). It seems to me that a potential reader would feel warmed to "recognize" the imagery on the cover. My target audience (coast lovers, readers of North Carolina writers, and history buffs) may be narrow, but its deep. Very deep. They may not feel the same seeing the professional's mystical shot I'm considering.

Should beauty win out over propriety?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Start at the beginning

Yesterday, an aspiring writer (aren't we all?) asked me about my query letter that got the attention of the kind folks at Second Wind Publishing. It wasn't really the beginning of my attempts to get my manuscript out into the light of day, which included more than a few dozen "no thank you" form letters from agents and publishing houses. Trial and error in approaching them and a bit of researching over many years led me to query Second Wind -- a small publisher who seeks to publish works not discovered by other publishers (hence, giving a work a second chance or a second wind).

I chose the "dive into the story first, then tell about my writing credentials later" approach. I suspect there are publishers, editors, and agents out there who are as crazy busy as the rest of us, so I tried to grab what little attention I might get with a strong one-sentence hook. (And I followed directions regarding submission requirements.)

Writing credentials are helpful if they relate to the story you're pushing, but a passion for the story is even more important, I believe. My "little" story is one that I believed in sharing. Sure, I've written over 500 feature articles in magazines and the like, but perhaps the notion that I enjoy history, coastal settings, and anything related to boats may have come into play. Are you passionate about your story? You better be -- you'll be selling it once it is published!

(My little story, by the way, is a historical maritime fiction. I'll tell you more about it as it gets through the publishing process and we get to know each other, okay?)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hard to keep a secret

Though I've just received the "Welcome, New Author" packet from the publisher, and I know it's a long road ahead from this point to where I actually open the first copy of my first novel, I'm elated. Don't know if it will help, but I thought this blogging business might help me keep my head on straight about the publishing process (you should see the checklist of every step between now and when I crack the book open!) as well as teach me about  blogging. Seems "everyone's" doing it, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I may digress in topic from time to time. I'm a writer, after all; but for the most part, I'll try to stay on this topic in case a reader finds him or herself with a story to tell and wonders about the process of moving from manuscript completion to seeing THE book on the bookstore shelves for everyone else to see. Quite exciting to think about, yes?