Monday, September 22, 2008

Wench-wear and Shameless Marketing

The New Hampshire Highland Games are one of my favorite venues for selling books, and just pretending to be Scottish. I make no effort to hide the fact that I'm not a Scot, sad as it may be, but some people choose not to believe it, which is fine with me. Some say the red in my hair makes me look like a Scot. Ok.

I had just finished setting up my table of books, postcards, pamphlets, and other pertinent paraphernalia, when my husband rushes over with one of those looks in his eyes. "You have to come see what I found!"

Hey, I game for anything, so I follow him across the expansive parking lot of Scottish vendors. We stop in front of a gorgeous outfit befitting any Scottish wench wanna-be. A black bustier with white gauze peasant blouse over a Robertson tartan skirt. "You need to get this outfit!" he tells me.

I give him one of my own looks. The one that says, really?

"Just try it on," he says, which quickly summoned a perky salesgirl all too willing to get me into the tight-fitting top. It has the true corset styling of rigid heavy fabric and a lace-up front.

"Are you sure I can get into this thing?" I ask, eyeing the tiny-waisted vest. "My Victoria's Secret won't be a secret in this thing," I tell her.

"Oh, no, you can't wear a bra under it, they tend to fight each other."

I then begin to doubt this entire excursion. She (the salesgirl) has no idea what Victoria's Secret keeps in check. But I agree to try it on and endure the measuring before being shuffled into the make-shift dressing room.

Off comes everything (freeing, to say the least in the 35 degree morning), and I slip on the peasant top. Nice. Soft. Loose. Then I put the bustier on over the top. I begin the lacing up process when I hear the salesgirl from the other side of the curtain telling me not to fret over the laces, she'll help me with them. I'm thinking to myself, how hard could this be?

I finish tying the cord at the top, then do a bit of adjusting of the "girls" before showing the world what I would have looked like in the 18th century.

My husband smiles, impressed. We all know what that means.

The salesgirl comes over and begins the torture process of yanking the laces together so this wee bit of vest closes tightly. I find that, like my protagonist, Catrìona, that I'm not thrilled with this fashion. I can no longer breath, and when I tell my masochistic tender she says, "You need to learn to breath from your lungs, not your stomach. You'll get used to it."

Tcha! When hell freezes over, perhaps. Then she cinches the deal by bringing over the mirror. I have to admit, it really did fetching.

Then she tells me to bend over and lift and scoop.

"Honey," I say, "there's no way these babies are getting that much air time. They're just fine where they are right now. I'm working here, not vying for suitors."

She just shrugged like, your loss.

So the salesgirl rings me up and puts my comfortable, loose-fitting, warm sweater in a bag, and I go back to the clan tent. Apparently, wench-wear is very popular with most men. I was looked over a subtly as possible by the clansmen in the tent, all to approving nods.

My husband's job was done there, so he shed his heavy flannel shirt for the custom-made t-shirt he was wearing. Here's a picture of Dan working the crowd. I actually got a couple sales from that shirt! He's such a good sport. That and the fact that he likes the idea of being a kept man. Who wouldn't!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Giving Talks

I'd baked some chocolate-covered shortbead and a single malt whisky cake for a talk I gave last night at my local library. Hey, when you wish you were in Scotland, the least you can do is eat like you were!

Nearly all the faces in the group were friends supporting me and my craft. I talked for almost an hour, reading a few pages from Sightless, then taking questions. The taking questions part is the most interesting. I'm always amazed at the intelligent questions people will ask. They really want to understand the writer's mind.

Why Scotland? was the most challenging question of the evening. It should be easy to answer, and it is for me, but to say it without scaring people in the audience is tricky. I truly feel a connection deeper than just a desire to see the place. How easily I can transport myself to the windswept moors blooming with heather. The rugged mountains, perhaps snow-covered, in the distance. I can literally smell the land, hear the quiet, and feel the peace. Can I do that anywhere? No. But I know I've walked the place and have known its secrets. Its people.

How did I answer it? "I feel Scottish and it has always been a passion of mine."

When I spoke about my screenplay for Eyes of Garnet, which always gets people perked up, a woman said she was very pleased to hear it was written because she could visualized each scene in the book and could clearly see it becoming a movie. Someone else asked if I'd cast it yet, and I told them who I could "see" playing the major parts. Some were pleased, some were surprised, a few thought they'd make a fine character. One never knows.

After I explained what haggis was, and why I won't eat it, we broke for goodies and coffee. The single malt whisky cake was a raging success, as always. I signed a few books and packed it all up again.

Is there another way to get your book "out there"? Yes, and I try to do them all. But reaching out to people one-on-one spreads like wildfire. If they like what they read and hear, they tell their friends, who will hopefully buy your book and pass along that they enjoyed it as well. It's a slow process, but when you're a newbie author, it's the only way to go.