Sunday, February 20, 2011

My first booksigning! Squeee!

19 February 2011

Lilly Gayle arranged it all. A group of small-press/self-pubbed/ebook-type authors from Heart of Carolina Romance Writers got together at Northgate Books in Northgate Mall, Durham, NC.

Let's see if I can get all the names right. It's so difficult to tell people's real names when they toss around noms de plume. (checking the pic) That's Amy Corwin, Emma Lang/Annabelle Bloom, Laura Browning, Katharine Ashe, me, Heather McCollum, my ex-crit partner Marcia Collette, and our heroine of the day, Lilly Gayle. (Picture lifted from Lilly's Facebook page.)

There were long tables draped in white with the Mall logo on them. There were book props so people could see our covers from across the room. We brought candy and bookmarks to give away. And yes, I wore pantyhose.

Many thanks to Victor, who bustled about seeing to our every need and may have left his counter vacant a couple times when customers wanted to check out. What a doll he was! Not the owner, but a great employee. I think he's executive material, myself.

We did get a fair amount of people coming through. (Many more that I'd thought we would.) Actually, a surprising percentage of the folks who came into the store paused to check out what the heck we were doing. One guy with two sons quickly discovered that we were only promoting "women's books," and shuffled his boys off before they could be contaminated. One guy seemed to think at first that this was a good place to pick up women, but he took it with good grace.

Almost all of us brought chocolate, but Heather made a plate of cookies decorated as dragonflies (her series has a dragonfly motif) that were yummy!! Amazingly, many were still left when we all packed up to go.

Some people came through and bought a book from EVERYONE!!! Wow! I had some nice chats with folks both in front of and behind the tables. There was one woman, Joy, who was ECSTATIC that we were there. She's a wannabe author who hasn't quite finished her first book. She didn't know there were other people out there like her, or that finishing a book AND GETTING IT PUBLISHED was really possible for an ordinary jane. She went to the back of the bookstore and returned brandishing a book by her famous aunt (whom I've seen on TV), whom she considers a mentor. Joy had such enthusiasm! I hope to see her at our meeting next month. She's new to the area, and was delighted that our group exists. So glad to meet you, Joy!

One of the authors who had to travel from a distance brought in a few family members, one of whom pledged to review my book once she'd finished it. Thank heavens for reviewers! I've gotten lots of compliments on my books, but people never seem to write out a review for Amazon, where others might see it and decide they'll take a chance on a newbie.

It was such a thrill to sign books. I'd sorta gotten some pithy stuff together to write, but on my first try messed it up. Argh. Hope they didn't mind. You know, for Burgundy and Lies, I'd write something like "I hope this vintage is to your taste," and for Touch of Danger it was, "I hope this book touches your heart." Totally goofball, but what the hey. If I ever... I mean, WHEN I get to the point where I have hundreds waiting in line for an autograph, I think I'll change over to signing just "Strick." I've seen too many people (notably Nichelle Nichols and Janet Evanovich) sign for hours and have felt so sorry for their obviously painful digits.

As it was: Thanks so much, Christy, Blanche, Teresa, Rebecca, Ann, Ginger, and Amy! I do hope you enjoy.

One of the authors wanted to buy my book (I love you!!!), and for some reason I pointed out that even with the "sale prices" I was charging for my books that day, the e-versions were cheaper. So she whips out her smartphone, calls up Amazon, orders, and begins reading. I love technology!!!

So here's to booksignings. If you see one happening, do stop in and talk to the authors. Grab a bookmark or ten. Eat some candy (there's always candy). You don't have to buy anything. Just chat and say something nice. There's a special spot in heaven for those who do so. (Though there's an even better spot for those who stop, chat, and buy!)


Sunday, February 6, 2011

January's paintings

July on King Street, 16x20", acrylic with wrap-around image. $500.00, shipping included.

Laughing Stream in Winter, 16x20", acrylic with wrap-around image. $500.00, shipping included.

Well, almost all-January paintings. I made a 2011 resolution to paint two paintings a month, and just crossed over by one week in February. I'm trying to paint more freely while still keeping a watch eye on composition. If you recall an earlier blog (waaaay earlier; I've got to work faster!), I showed my value block-ins. You don't recall those? Well, that's them, above, in red.

Hillsborough is called "Historic Hillsborough" because of its old (for the US) neighborhoods. At one time it was the capital of NC. If you've ever had to drive through downtown, you'll notice that the streets must be just a trifle narrower than they should—especially around that #@!! coffee shop, where people in parked cars will throw open their doors right in front of you because they're so focused on getting their caffeine. Also, that crazy hardware store always seems to have a semi unloading in front of it, which means you've got to swerve into the opposite lane to get by. You have to pray that no one at the intersection fifty feet ahead will turn in front of you.

But down a few blocks are lovely homes with old trees. One summer's afternoon as I was strolling with my camera, I caught some wonderful back-light. You all know I lurvs my backlight! And I was determined to use some really free brushstrokes to try to capture the joy of the light.

As for the other painting, it's the stream at my old place. I adored that rock in front. It was large enough that you could sit on it while the stream burbled all around. Just in back of the green is the remains of another stream bed, this one dried up, that I always felt sorry for. I should have saved my pity, for neighbors upstream moved in, decided they wanted a large lake on their property, dammed the stream, and I was left streamless except after a very heavy rain!

How I miss my stream. But here it is in its glory. I decided not only to free up my brushstrokes again for this, but also to utilize some textured modeling pastes so the foreground rocks have a bit of a 3D effect. Fun!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these. Or even buy them. Please note: these will be the last canvases I date. I've now read/heard far too many experts say that dating a painting discourages sales, because people will look at a perfectly lovely 2003 painting and ask, "Why has this painting not been sold yet? There must be something wrong with it!"

So I guess this means I have to be extra-diligent with my records keeping! Arrgh!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Strickly a Book Review

Crocodile on the Sandbank
by Elizabeth Peters
Warner Books
4 1/2 spangles out of five
Historical Suspense with strong romantic elements
Heat: It's properly Victorian and thus we shall talk of other things, thank you. Would you like some tea?

Here I am, trying to do recent books in my genre, but yet again I'm faced with an older (1975) book that has not a fantasy element in it. Unless you think that menacing mummies prowling through the night are particularly paranormal.

I picked this up because somewhere someone had mentioned that it not only was a definite keeper, but the first of a series. How I love origin stories! Indeed, this is book #1 of the Amelia Peabody series.

Amelia is a spinster, youngest child and inheritor of her father's surprise fortune. Amelia had long studied at her father's side, drinking in his love of archaeology and ancient cultures. So when he dies and she finds herself rich, she hies herself off to the world's more interesting historical places.

In Rome she happens upon a young, beautiful but destitute woman, Evelyn, who has been Ruined by a man who thought he could gain a fortune through her. But now the young lady's grandfather has disowned her, and if not for Amelia's rescue, she would have died of hunger and cold.

Her experience has left Evelyn vowing never to get married, for her view of men has been marred. Should she ever find a good man, she would not inflict upon him the stigma of her Ruin.

Amelia also knows that she will never marry, for Amelia is a woman of strong opinions she is not shy of sharing, and she realizes that her looks are not what a man should want. The only reason a man would marry her would be for her wealth, and she will not stand for that. So the two resolve to travel together, Evelyn as Amelia's companion, and renounce marriage while having an interesting time in the world.

After Rome comes Cairo, Egypt. Here Peters has done thorough research into the state of archeology during the Victorian era, and Egypt is not faring well. Much of its treasures is pilfered, and those that remain are not catalogued well enough to conduct serious scientific research.

Amelia sets off for a Nile cruise. One of her stops on the way to Luxor is Amarna, where she and Evelyn run into two archaeologist brothers they'd met previously, one of whom has come down with a fever. Amelia's medical knowledge is brought into play. Before she or Evelyn realize it, they stumble into a mystery that has something to do with King Akhenaten's tomb and a mummy who walks around at night, threatening their party.

Yes, the answer to it all does seem obvious, but it is the process of the characters solving things and interacting that makes the book. Amelia is one tough cookie, always ready with a smart crack, be it from her words or her iron parasol. She locks horns with one of the brothers, who is as stubborn as she.

There are several chuckles per chapter, and the bits of Egyptian history and landscape are vividly portrayed. A hint: don't read the back cover copy, which gives the basis for the series away—which includes the ending of this book.