Appalachian Thursday – Cover Reveal

While my fourth novel–The Sound of Rain–won’t officially release until early November, I can now share the cover with you. And I’m head over heels for it!

The designers said they wanted to do something a little different this time and I offered lots of suggestions and samples of covers I thought conveyed the “feel” of this story . . . which probably didn’t help them at all.

But that’s okay because Bethany House designers are some of the best in the business and they can be trusted! So here it is . . .

THOMAS_SOUNDOFRAIN_FR&SP.indd

Sigh.

I love the antique, nostalgic feel which is my BRAND y’all! And then those raindrops. And the e.e. cummings lack of capital letters in the title. Lovely!

And, as you can see, Larkin is NOT blonde, but has brown to auburn hair. Well of course she does. As soon as I saw the dress, I wrote it into the story (I was working on edits at the time). It makes me happy to “find” the cover when I’m reading, so I assume others like that, too.

Here’s one version of the back cover copy:

Judd Markley is a hard working coal miner who rarely thinks much past tomorrow until he loses his brother—and nearly his own life—in a mine cave-in. Vowing never to enter the darkness of a mine again, he leaves all he knows in West Virginia to escape to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s 1954, the seaside community is thriving, and Judd soon hires on with a timber company.

Larkin Heyward’s life in Myrtle Beach is uncomplicated, mostly doing volunteer work and dancing at the Pavilion. But she dreams of one day doing more—maybe moving to the hollers of Kentucky to help the poor children of Appalachia. But she’s never even met someone who’s lived there—until she encounters Judd, the newest employee at her father’s timber company.

Drawn together in the wake of a devastating hurricane, Judd and Larkin each seek answers to what tomorrow will bring. As opposition rises against following their divergent dreams, they realize that it may take a miracle for them to be together.

Every Author Needs a Few Friends

Frances
Frances came from the Charlotte area!

Before I was published I might have daydreamed a little about the events I would do once I was . . . well, you know . . . famous. Signings, readings, interviews.

Now, two years into this published author business, let’s just say the reality hasn’t quite lived up to the daydream. I’ve done signings where the only takers were people I pretty much accosted and charmed into buying a book. I gave a talk (paid!) where one person came. And she didn’t know I was going to be there–she just sort of stumbled into the room.

There have been others that came closer to those early daydreams–my book launch was incredible. Doing a signing at the International Christian Retail Show was just plain fun. And then there was yesterday.

I did a signing and reading at our local Barnes & Noble to benefit the Literacy  Council of Buncombe County (you can still benefit them–if you shop B&N on-line, enter code ID #11827862 at checkout to donate 10% of the purchase through May 8). I invited folks and it was well advertised, but still, I was holding my breath knowing I could easily end up reading to the literacy council staff and my husband.

B&N crowd
My standing-room only crowd!

And then . . . people came. A reader who connected with me on Facebook came all the way from Charlotte, NC. Friends came and brought their own friends. Passers by heard me reading and stopped to listen, then stayed. After the reading others swung by the table and ended up buying books.

Oh, it wasn’t like Nicholas Sparks or Francine Rivers with a line snaking out to the sidewalk, but it sure made me feel good. And it was mostly because people I know came and made it look like an event so other people started paying attention, too.

My delusions of grandeur have yet to play out, but this business of having good friends I can count on? That’s better than any dream of fame or fortune.

Unrealistic Romance Novels

love-560783_1280I’ve had cause to read some mainstream romances lately–a genre I haven’t dipped into for years. Back in high school and college I couldn’t get enough of them, but they just haven’t been in my reading pile for quite some time.

I’d forgotten how unrealistic they are.

And no, I’m NOT talking about the romance. I’m talking about the FOOD.

Back in the day, I would have been thrilling along with each brush of the hero’s fingertips across the heroine’s cheek. Held my breath as they leaned in for the kiss. Sighed when things went inevitably wrong.

Not so much these days. I know the formula, so it’s harder to be swept away. But what these people EAT. Now that is pure, delicious fantasy.

The main characters are, of course, perfect specimens of human beauty. And yet they consume enough calories to keep a family of four satisfied.

One heroine, who is runway model tall and willowy, has a penchant for an over-the-top chocolate baked good. When stressed or upset, she goes to a local bakery and buys a box of sweets, then consumes several full servings. She does have the decency to mention–in passing–that she has a fast metabolism. I’ll say.

Another heroine wears a clingy, skimpy dress to a seven-course gourmet dinner, admits that she stuffs herself, and then has the gall to wonder if the dress might show a teeny bit of tummy pooch. Where’s your Spanx, girl?

Okay. I’m guilty, too. I feed my characters well. They enjoy big, family dinners and lots of country cooking. But I don’t go on and on about their stunning physiques. Shoot, some of them are pudgy.

But at least my meals are well-balanced. In one book, the main characters kept having meals together along the lines of an entire meat lover’s pizza with wine or country-fried steak with mashed potatoes. Give ’em a vegetable, please!

Isn’t it funny how your focus shifts as the years go by? I’m not looking for romance anymore–I have my sweetie by my side and kisses when I want ’em. But to be able to eat eggs Benedict for breakfast, a cheeseburger and fries for lunch, and a giant bowl of pasta with bread and wine for dinner? Now that’s the kind of fantasy I can get into.

Book Events–Hoping to See You Soon!

Speaking

The only thing better than holding one of my very own books in my hands is meeting someone who actually took the time to READ one of those books.

I mean, that’s kind of the whole reason I write them. So people can read them and hopefully be touched by my stories. I do run into people like this in daily life on occasion. Friends at church have read my books. Some co-workers have. Once in a while I’ll meet someone at a conference who’s read something I wrote. And readers get in touch with me via Facebook.

But the BEST place to meet readers is at book events. If they haven’t already read my books, they at least have some notion they want to. Never ceases to amaze me.

So in December, I’m heading out to do several events and if you’re not too far away, I’d LOVE to see you there. Here’s the itinerary:

Thursday, December 3 – Meet the Author at the Durham South Regional Library – 6:30-8 p.m., Durham, NC – I can’t tell you how excited I am to be speaking at a LIBRARY! One of my favorite places to be. As for the presentation, remember those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories? My talk will flow along those lines letting the audience choose which direction the conversation heads.

Friday, December 4 – Talk & Signing at Page 158 Books – 6-8 p.m., Wake Forest, NC – I had a chance to meet store owners Dave & Sue not long ago and when I mentioned I’d be in their neck of the woods in December, they kindly invited me to come by. Now I’m doing the same and inviting YOU to come by! (There’ll be snacks.)

Saturday, December 5 – Book Club at Reynolda Branch Library – 10-11:30 a.m., Winston-Salem, NC – Ahhh. Readers who get together and talk about books. THESE are my tribe. I’ll be discussing genre and promotion, leaving plenty of time for discussion because the only thing I like better than talking is talking WITH new friends!

Author Advice from Nicholas Sparks

Everyone had a chance to have their photo taken with Nicholas Sparks. That would be my elbow and nose there on the left. I hate to crowd people.
Everyone had a chance to have their photo taken with Nicholas Sparks. That would be my elbow and nose there on the left. I hate to crowd people.

Okay, he didn’t actually sit down and give ME advice. Not intentionally, anyway.

Sunday a week ago I volunteered at a book signing for Nicholas Sparks in Greenville, SC. Fiction Addiction is a fabulous, independent bookstore that has been gracious enough to host me for a signing.

Let’s just say FEWER people came to my event.

My job was to help make sure each fan’s book got in front of Nicholas Sparks, open to the correct page, and with a minimum of fuss. I was also key in keeping that line moving since we estimated around 600 people came out. Some as early as 8 a.m. for a 3 p.m. signing.

Here are some of my takeaways (you know, for when 600 people come to see me):

  1. If there’s a long line and people are waiting, start signing early. Nicholas started signing around 1 p.m. and we finished up around 4 p.m. That means early arrival fans had a two-hour shorter wait than otherwise. I call that thoughtful!
  2. Set parameters. Only one book per customer, only the current book, no personalizations, and only books purchased from the host store. This not only keeps the line moving, but gives an independent bookseller a significant boost. Nice!
  3. Be flexible with the parameters. Like, say, when a 98-year-old fan waits in line–she TOTALLY gets a peronalization. And when four generations of one family come together because they’re all fans, they’re getting their photo on the Nicholas Sparks Facebook page!
  4. Remember the people who got you started. I was amazed by how many people Nicholas knew. He asked about family members, jobs, and illnesses. He called people by name and he gave them hugs. There were several fans who’d been to a signing for every single one of his books. He recognized them right away.
  5. Be nice to the volunteers. Once the line dwindled to nothing, Nicholas personalized a free book for each volunteer. He also complimented the lady who supplied dried roses that perfectly matched the ones on the cover of See Me.
  6. Be real. He took bathroom breaks. He drank Mountain Dew. He joked and he might have been just the teensiest bit tired after three hours of interacting with fans. At which point he put on his jacket and headed for home.

I’m always a little cautious when I meet someone with a degree of fame. Will they be nice? Will they be a disappointment? I’ve met a few authors who left me less of a fan. Not Nicholas Sparks. I’ll probably continue to avoid his “sad” books just because I like happy endings, but after watching him interact with readers for three hours I have to say, I’m a fan, regardless.

Appalachian Thursday — Cover Reveal

With All My HeartMy Mom was kind of sad when she found out she could only ready my novella, Appalachian Serenade, digitally. My mother-in-law has yet to read it since she wouldn’t know how to read something on a screen.

But soon, the whole world will be able to hold Appalachian Serenade in their hands and turn the crisp pages. As a bonus, there will be four other novellas in the With All My Heart collection by some pretty fantastic authors.

I’m not sure which is more exciting, finally having a print copy of my novella, or being grouped with the likes of Karen Witemeyer, Jen Turano, Melissa Jagears, and Jody Hedlund!

With All My Heart is due out next summer, but in the meantime here’s a look at the cover. Bethany House aimed for a somewhat general image since all five stories deal with different heroines in varied time periods and settings.

I LOVE it. Mostly for the rhododendron spilling over a split rail fence.

Can you get any more Appalachian than that?!?

Appalachian Serenade: A Novella
Delilah Morrissey has always wanted to be a mother, but when she becomes a young widow, that dream seems farther away than ever. Unable to continue to live alone in Chicago, her only option is to accept her sister’s offer to move in with her family back in West Virginia. Will Delilah have the faith to pursue a new dream–even if it means giving up the old?

True Love Stories and a Winner

LoveLast week on SouthernBelleView I asked readers to share true love stories in order to be entered to win a copy of Until the Harvest. Just let me say, after reading the comments I realized this was a brilliant idea (which means the credit for it lies elsewhere!). I promised to share some of my favorite stories with you, so here we go:

CINDY – “I was supposed to have quit my job at the local roller rink two weeks earlier. But I loved that job! I had been through three bad relationships in a row and was tired of boys and dating. I just wanted a friend to skate couples with me when the couples song played so that I could skate and not be alone while I kept my whistle at the ready. A new guy showed up one night. Then he came a few more Saturday nights. My parents were reminding me to quit the job since college classes were out for summer and I was not making enough to pay for my gas. After several weeks of his coming to the rink, I memorized the new guy’s skate size and saved the best pair for him. And I “forgot” to quit that job. When he came up that night, I plopped those best skates on the counter. He plopped a brand new pair of skates right beside them. He bought a new pair of skates! My heart skipped a beat. A couple of more weeks–enough for me to secure a first date–and I finally quit my job. By then I knew he was a true gentleman and was the kind of guy I had been looking for. One year later we were married and both our families were very happy. We’re still married 35 years later as of June 7, 2015, and still very much in love.”

Isn’t that the best “how we met” story? Happy anniversary, Cindy! Sounds like not quitting that job was the best investment you could have made.

DEANA – “Growing up in a home where love was not shown or even spoken, I never knew what it felt like to be loved. I got married and my husband and I had two boys together. One day I decided I didn’t want to be married anymore. After all I still didn’t know what love was, even though my husband showed it every day with words and affection. We got divorced after thirteen years and I was on my own with two boys thinking I could find love. An emotional wreck, I realized I was all alone. My now ex-husband still saw his boys and continued to tell me that he was praying for me and standing for reconciliation. Really, I thought? Why is he doing that? One day something touched me and I knew that I had made the biggest mistake in my life. After dating my ex-husband again, my heart began to soften and I truly saw my husband for the first time. Through his prayer and God’s love, I began to feel loved. We remarried and had another child. We call him our restoration baby. I now know what it feels like to be loved unconditionally and to be able to return those feelings. I thank God everyday for giving me a husband who loves me unconditionally and never gave up. We celebrated 32 years of marriage in April.”

Phew. How many people today need to hear a story like that? I especially appreciate how Deana recognizes that it wasn’t just her husband’s love, but God’s that restored her heart.

And now, the winner of the a copy of Until the Harvest is . . . Carolyn Hiatt! Carolyn, send me an e-mail with your address and I’ll get your book in the mail (salt96 at charter dot net). Thanks to everyone who commented–it was a joy to read your stories!