Monday, June 28, 2010

WANDERING FOR SIGNINGS

Now that The Boston Mountains: Lost in the Ozarks and Arkansas Meals and Memories have been released, most of my wandering and losing myself in the Bostons is done to conduct presentations. I prefer to call them that, rather than book signings because I spend a lot of time talking about my adventures with those who attend the event. Keeping it very casual is the best way, so that people who are in a hurry can come and go without interrupting a formal speech.

Since the books came out I've been to some wonderful places. Small communities in the Boston Mountains are filled with friendly and very receptive people. Many times in my writing career I've held a book signing at a book store and no one came. Oh, they are in the store, but they avoid me like I had the plague. I sometimes think that only writers actually understand what a book signing is. I thought about teaching people about authors and how we desperately hope some people will stop by when we're sitting there smiling broadly and trying to attract the attention of folks who obviously read books, else why are they in the book store?

But I've finally decided that my job is to write good books and then do my best to promote them so they get into the hands of the readers I'm sure will like them, if only they'll slow down and pick one up.

This idea to hit all the libraries in the four counties of the Boston Mountains written about in my book turned out to be a good one. My publisher wasn't sure. He figured folks in libraries were there to check out books, not to buy them. And of course, he's right, as far as the idea goes. But you take a small community with no book stores and a nice library, folks pretty much know where to go to get books. And a lot of them will buy books there, given the chance. I've had some call me when they couldn't make the presentation and say, "I checked your book out of the library and I've just got to have a copy. How do I get one?"

It so happens both my books were published by small publishers, which means the big brick and mortar book stores aren't too eager to carry them. I don't care that much. I figure they'd just get lost in all those thousands of books stacked, piled and filed throughout the Walmart-size store. The biggest problem I'm having is keeping those folks supplied who want copies and miss my appearances in their town. I've settled for a mail-order sideline. I live close to our small community post office so it's not much trouble, and there's never a line, even on April 15.

After a calm few weeks, appearances are picking up again and I'm booking some libraries for the second time. Being a writer involves wearing so many hats. I'm a cold caller to talk folks into having me in their library or place of business, I peddle my books everywhere I go, and speaking is high on the list as well. Promotion in every form is necessary to keep sales up and to make sure everyone who wants a book gets one.

Of course, writing is always a priority. Currently I'm working on a novel and a biography. One is sold, the other has gained a lot of interest from an editor. So talk about multi-tasking. I try to avoid that, by dividing my chores into doable chunks each day. Monday for this, Tuesday for that, and so on. It works out pretty well most of the time. It's an enjoyable life, dealing with characters who live in my mind and all those wonderful real people I meet along the way. I wouldn't trade it for any other profession.

Monday, June 21, 2010

NO SUMMER DOLDRUMS

The only thing I dislike about hot, lazy summer days is getting dressed. I often joke that if it weren't for clothing summer would be perfect. It's not so bad when I'm home and writing. I can wear as little as possible, but even two tiny? chunks of fabric can be difficult to put on over a sweaty body. Other than that, I'm happy as can be with heat.

Poor hubby, though, suffers greatly. But he has a bigger problem. He has a two-degree comfort zone. Anything above or below those two degrees and he's miserable. He freezes me to death turning on fans in the summer and burns me up raising the thermostat in the winter. I don't think I'm the only woman with this problem. Why is it we weren't all given the same thermostat? Can you guess why our home doesn't have air conditioning?

We travel a lot and we no sooner get inside the motel than he's fiddling with the heater/cooler. Running it up to 80 or down to 60 depending on the weather outside. Why isn't 70 okay year around? Don't ask me. He hasn't let me in on that yet.

I was born suited to live on a south sea island where the weather remains above 70 all the time. Not only do I not like cold weather, I detest wearing layers of clothing. And shoes, don't get me started on shoes. I keep buying them in the hopes I'll find something comfortable or at least tolerable. Flip flops aren't bad, nor are moccasins, but other than those two, I haven't found anything really easy on the old feet. My solution is to go barefoot most of the time, but it's frowned on when going for an interview with an editor or showing up for a television or book store appearance.

Here I sit at my computer writing in a one-piece flimsy, no shoes on my feet. And if that's too much of a visual for you, well I'm sorry.

So come on summertime. Let the sun shine in, face it with a grin. Is it illegal to quote that much of a song?




Monday, June 14, 2010

BLESS INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES

This past weekend two independent bookstores hosted me and my new books, The Boston Mountains: Lost in the Ozarks and Arkansas Meals and Memories. I can't say enough in praise of these few remaining individually owned bookstores. The huge bookstores like Barnes & Noble, Books A Million and the like have all but driven the majority of them out of business. It's a shame because the "indies" offer so much to regional authors with small publishers as well as to readers looking for a bit of old-fashioned enjoyment.

When I arrived at Nightbird Bookstore in Fayetteville, owner Lisa and a helper bounced out the door to help me carry books inside for the signing. I arrived to find chairs set up, a table for my books and a place for me to present my program. As people drifted in, they were greeted and escorted into the well-lit, comfortable area. After talking about the stories and recipes in my two books and reading a bit from each one, I answered questions and we all had a nice visit. Books were purchased and a good time was had by all. Lisa bought some of my books for the store as well. I left feeling special.

The other day I called Barnes & Noble and didn't get any farther than saying I was with a small publisher. Silence was soon followed by a definite NO. "I can't find your books in the computer."

My next signing this weekend was with Trolley Line Bookstore in Rogers owned by Myra and her husband. I met Myra when she attended the free conference our critique group sponsors each year. She heard my friend Radine Trees Nehring and I present an Author's Chat and asked if we would do the program at her bookstore sometime soon. "And make sure and bring your books," she added.

That time was Sunday afternoon. Before the program and signing, Myra treated us to Brunch across the street from her establishment. We then went to a special room in the back of her small store which she had all ready for us. We presented our program, chatting about a writer's life, why we write, where our stories come from and some of the strange things that have happened to us since we began to write.

It was a very pleasant afternoon spent with readers and writers and we enjoyed it so much. Not once did anyone mention our books not being in a computer. They are now on the shelves of two Independent Bookstores in Northwest Arkansas because of these good people who are struggling to keep open despite the stress and competition.

My advice. When you want a book, go to an Independent Bookstore in your area. If they don't have the book, it's my bet they can get it. Meanwhile, you'll enjoy your visit in a friendly, down-home atmosphere.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

CATS ARE PEOPLE TOO





Bobbi came to live with us as a squalling infant. She clawed her way up my shirt and nestled against my neck and began to nurse whatever she could find to suck on. The earlobe proved the most popular. Our daughter brought her from a litter one of her ladies had produced after a wandering huge bobtail cat visited the area catching us unawares. Bobbi inherited her father's bobbed tail, his broad shoulders and his peculiar wild cat walk, but she isn't very big.

That was four years ago in March, the same week our great grandson was born. She immediately took over, scratching her way up four steps the second night, climbing the side of the bed and curling up between us. She soon matched her schedule to ours. What we do she does. When we sleep she sleeps. In the winter she lays in hubby's lap while he reads in the afternoon.

Right away I had to teach her not to play on the keyboard when I'm working. So she searched out another companion, someone with less rules. That was my hubby. They became great pals. He goes out on the deck she is with him, he's in the yard, she is too. If he doesn't go out when she thinks he should she fetches him and talks until he does what she wants. She has favorite games like hiding in the bushes while he walks around calling, "Where's Bobbi? Where's Bobbi?" Then she leaps out.

We had her spayed when she was old enough, but occasionally a male cat will come visiting and try to get his way with her. She comes in and gets my husband to go out and protect her. If he doesn't go to bed when it's time she begins to scold him, walking circles and trotting halfway to the steps then back again.

He rigged the spring on the front screen door so that during the summer she can push it open and go outside, then paw it open to come in. You may have guessed that we don't have air conditioning, living out here in the Ozarks where fans and open windows are much better than being shut up in re-constituted air.

When he goes somewhere and is gone very long, she fetches me and gives me a right good talking to about his absence, then crawls in my lap. A substitute only when he's gone or she's peeved at him about something. When that happens she glares at him from my lap.

Since I work all day at the computer my lap is only available in the evenings, but she'll settle for it under those conditions.

Sometimes she frightens me because I can tell her to go do something and she'll study me a while, then go do exactly what I told her to. Not so with hubby, however, cause he has her so spoiled she doesn't mind him at all. She's done her best to convince me that she's smarter than either of us are. And maybe she is. After all, who feeds who?