Sunday, December 20, 2009

Control

Wow! It's hard to believe it's been over a month since I last blogged. My sister prodded me last night into writing to you explaining why. Sorry for being incommunicado for so long.

December has been a crazy month, and not because of anything to do with the holidays. I started a new job (nope, nothing to do with my writing career, more of the "put food on the table" sort), so I was very busy with that, plus trying my best to do the rewrite on Despite Them so I can get the new manuscript to Grace in early January.

You know how life happens just when you least expect it.

I was talking with a fellow writer the other day and he was saying how he's not sure how to deal with losing control of the story he wrote when it goes to the publisher.

After having total control of my books for all these years, I'm not sure how I'm going to deal with it when I go to a big publisher either. It got me to thinking about this reality, and I realized that doing this rewrite could be construed as such (losing control), however, I feel it's making it a better book.

So, does that mean losing control can be a good thing?

I've heard stories of writers getting editors who want them to change the entire story. My reaction to that would be to get a new editor. One that had the same vision I had when I wrote the book. Either that, or the book wasn't good enough to begin with, but apparently an editor thought enough of it to want to work on it. Who's to say?

It's a hard process having your dream ripped apart in front of your eyes. I could have taken that attitude, but when I really thought about it (and after I got over the crush of Grace telling me my characters fell short), I understood why she and the two publishing houses rejected it.

I'm about 2/3 done with the rewrite now and can honestly say, even those who've read my first three books are going to see the difference. I can't wait for Grace to read it again to give me her feedback, then pass it along to the publishers knowing it's the absolute best I can give them.

Happy Solstice and Holidays from the coast of Maine!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Agent/Publisher News

My agent called me this afternoon with news about Despite Them.

Grace submitted my book to Avon, and to Berkley, which I didn't realize.

The really good new is that both publishers loved my writing and my story, which in of itself is AWESOME NEWS. However, both rejected Despite Them because of one crucial item.

Lack-luster characters.

It came as a surprise to me until Grace pointed out the fact that I was riding along thinking everyone had read the Eyes of Garnet trilogy, and already had all the background on the characters I used from that series.

Rejection can be taken many ways. I always use it as a tool to get better.

Here are the suggestions Grace gave me to WOW! the Publishers she'll submit to when I've revamped the book.

1) I need to pretend like I've never written the Eyes of Garnet trilogy, and start with fresh eyes to add the complex layers of my characters.

2) Please get Gregor laid!

Really, they asked that he get lucky at least once. And if that doesn't make you want to read the book, I don't know what will! ;o)

So I will set aside my 5th book, and go back to rewrite Despite Them, because the next set of publishers she'll submit to are Berkley (again), and Pocket Books, a division of Simon and Schuster!!! How can I NOT want to WOW! them!

I'll let you how I'm doing along the way.

Well, all except for the sex scene...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Cosmic Thing


Today I went to a signing of a couple of Maine authors I've become friends with at the Fertile Mind Bookshop in Belfast, Maine. Great bookstore, and terrific owners, Bruce and LaRue always host a wonderful event.

I went because Janet Chapman just came out with another Highlander book, and I wanted it. It was quite busy when my husband and I walked in, but I found a seat, while my better half went over to talk with Bruce, being the only other male in the place.

Before Janet got to make her first sale, I was already signing one of my own books! Then the we all began talking about the business of writing, as well as tanning beds, campers, naps, and a wonderful herbal remedy to help clear the cobwebs of an overactive mind; SamE.

By the end of the visit (which turned into 2 hours!), I had signed and sold 7 of my books. All at someone else's book signing event!

Was it a cosmic configuration that enabled me to crash an event and make out better than when I do when I'm on the sign outside?

Perhaps.

But I just think great bookstore owners who know their buyers can "guide" those buyers to books they'll enjoy. And, boy can these two do that!

LaRue, thank you!

And Bruce, thanks for entertaining Dan while I do my thing.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Writing Season



As I begin the first few chapters of my fifth book, I find it difficult to concentrate. When the weather gets cold and snowy, my office is where I practically live, but when the crispness of the autumn air, the impossibly blue sky, and the multitude of brilliantly colored leaves taunt me from my office window, I just have to give in and get outside. There will be plenty of time yet to write.

This has turned into an especially brilliant year, attributing to the rather large quantities of rain throughout the summer. Berries are plump and plentiful.



And the usual maladies of blight on the leaves isn't so apparent.







The blueberry barrens, which are seen everywhere around this peninsula, are turning crimson, cranberry, vermillion and every other shade of red the eye can discern.



The coast comes alive with golden oaks, and vivid maples, mixed with the dark greens of the spruce. As the air becomes colder than the water, the vapor rises from the sea in fingers.





Then there's that one single tree that screams its brazen color, saying, "Look at me!"









Finally, the hardy asters chill under frosty nights, but continue blooming strong into November, adding to the colorful scenes.



So, dinna fret, the season is short and I'll be back in front of my computer very soon. Until then, when the weather's fine, I'll be taking advantage of the last of the season's beauty.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Despite Them Update

Here's an update to let everyone know what the status is of my fourth book, Despite Them with Gregor Macgregor.

It's in the hands of Avon Books a branch of Harper Collins—a pretty big fish in the book publishing world!

Don't be fooled by the fact that they print a lot of bodice-ripping Romance novels, they also print many other genres, but Scottish Romance is big business. And why wouldn't it be? Who out there doesn't love a rugged Highlander in a kilt?

Since I've bent and twisted my genre into something barely recognizable, my agent, Grace Morgan, says this is a good fit.

The company in which I could be keeping is terrific. Examples of the authors Avon publishes: Michael Crichton, Janet Dailey, Jim DeFelice, Mark Fuhrman, Patricia Gaffney, Neil Gaiman, Bartholomew Gill, Johanna Lindsey, and Sara Bennett, to name but a few.

So, all I have to do know is wait for the good news that Avon wants to pick up my book, and, with every good thought I can send them, offer me a multi-book deal. Not difficult, right?

Well, to keep my mind occupied with something else while the time trudges by, I've already completed the first chapter of the second Macgregor adventure (no title as yet). I'd love to tell you what it's going to be about, but I haven't a clue! ;o)

I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Single Malt Whisky Cake



Before I give you a terrific recipe that's sure to please (even if you don't imbibe in the Scottish nectar), I want to give you a wee bit o' history on the amber elixir.

First off is why you see whisky spelled two ways; one with an "ey" and one with just a "y".

The one true way to be certain that you are spending your money on a Scottish malt is whisky is spelled without an "e". In my opinion, as frugal as the Scots tend to be, they may have used this spelling so they are assured of getting a Scottish malt and not an Irish or American blend. No sense in wasting cold, hard-earned cash on something that's not the real deal, right?

But, Canadians, New Zealanders and the Japanese (honest!) also spell it the same as the Scottish, so be sure to read where it was distilled.

A Scottish single malt is always made from malted barley, whereas "whiskey" can be made from unmalted corn and other grains. The barley malt for Scotch whisky is first dried over fires that have been stoked with dried peat (a form of compacted grass and heather compost that is harvested from the moors). The peat smoke adds the distinctive smoky tang to the taste of the malt whisky, as does what type of barrel it's aged in.

The smoky-tasting Scotches tend to be aged in an oak barrel that's been smoked inside. Others are aged in sherry casks, lending its flavor to the brew.

Scotch Whisky Regions

The Highlands consist of the portion of Scotland north of a line from Dundee on the North Sea coast in the east to Greenock on the Irish Sea in the west, including all of the islands off the mainland except for Islay. Highland malt whiskies cover a broad spectrum of styles. They are generally aromatic, smooth and medium bodied, with palates that range from lushly complex to floral delicacy. The subregions of the Highlands include Speyside; the North, East and West Highlands; the Orkney Isles; and the Western Islands (Arran, Jura, Mull, and Skye).

The Lowlands encompass the entire Scottish mainland south of the Highlands except the Kintyre Peninsula where Campbeltown is located. Lowland malt whiskies are light bodied, relatively sweet, and delicate.

Islay is an island off the west coast. Traditional Islay malt whiskies are intensely smoky and pungent in character with a distinctive iodine or medicinal tang that is said to come from sea salt permeating the local peat that is used to dry the barley malt.

Campbeltown is a port located on the tip of the Kintyre Peninsula on the southwest coast that has its own distinctive spicy and salt-tinged malt whiskies.



I brought the infamous cake to an Equinox party last week (no, it wasn't one of those Pagan rituals where everyone dances around a bonfire naked. Thankfully!), and a young girl all of ten thought it was gingerbread.

Until she tasted it.

She handed it directly to her father, and said, "Dad, I don't think I'm supposed to be eating this."

He seemed to enjoy the fact that it wasn't gingerbread very much, as he was on his third piece when he told me the story.

Anyway, the following recipe has been praised by many, including wine distributors at the Wine and Food Festival in Blue Hill. I'll be there again October 18th at the Arborvine restaurant from 11:00-3:00 if you're in the neighborhood. One might ask why I would be a part of such a festival, and my answer is that my books sell best when found in places where a book is least expected to be. Plus, I can cook, and enjoy seeing the looks on people's faces when I ask them to sample my Single Malt Whisky Cake.

Single Malt Whisky Cake

2/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup water
1 stick real butter (Don't substitute here, please. Forego the waist for a real treat!)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
1  1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup Single Malt Whisky (I've used Dalmore, Dalwhinnie, Glenfiddich and Glendronach with good results)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Cover raisins with the water in a small pan and simmer until only 2 tbsps. of water remain. Let cool a bit.

Cream butter and sugar; add egg.

Stir in dry ingredients.

Add rest of liquids (including water from raisins) and mix well.

Fold in raisins and pour into a buttered 8 inch pan.

Bake at 350º for 30-40 minutes.

Enjoy!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hooligans' Weekend, AKA The Highland Games

Sunday morning dawned with crisp air, frost on the fields and a clear blue sky. We set out early for Sugar Hill, north of Franconia, bound for Polly's Pancake Parlor. A real treat, if you're ever up that way.

As we drove through Franconia Notch, the fog had settled thickly in the valleys overnight, making the mountains look as though they were islands floating on an inland sea. Some of the maples were beginning to turn red and orange creating a vivid distraction as the sun struck the swamps.

It was a perfect ending to a terrific weekend at the Highland Games at Loon Mountain.

We hopped the shuttle bus early Friday morning and arrived at the clan tent before nine. It was cloudy and cold, with predictions of periodic showers during the afternoon. It felt as though it could have spit snow, but luckily, it didn't.



The crowds were non-existent, so it gave us a chance to actually see the goings-ons, and of course, buy trinkets and eat without waiting in lines that can stretch for 50 or 60 feet. We searched for tea and coffee then set out to explore the festivities.





After awhile, I settled into the clan tent and got down to the business of selling my books, as well as the factual historicals about the clan,  talking to people about the Donnachaidh history, and generally heckling those looking for a bit of…well, heckling. You can always tell those folks. They'll walk over with a mischievous look in their eye, then ask if this is the tent where they can get a wee dram of Scottish elixir. This usually means they're already well into the drink by then and are out looking to see what kind of trouble they can get into. Mind you, they can be men or women up for this task! The men wear Laphroaig hats; the fine single malt Scotch they've enjoyed at the Scotch Tastings. The women wear the "Official Kilt Inspector" t-shirts in search of…I don't know, shortest kilt, perhaps?

But mostly, it's people who want to talk about where they come from. We give them as much information as we can, sell them a book or two, a decal, a bit of Robertson ribbon, etc., and send them on their way.

Then there are those with stories they want to share.

Two sisters came up to me asking about their heritage. "We've got some of this clan, some of that clan, and oh, yeah, and some Campbell blood."

"Sssh!" I said, making them flinch. "You never want to say that in this tent, or many of the other tents, for that matter!"

"We've heard the stories," they assured me in a whisper. "Our mum's a true Campbell. Stubborn and nasty to the bone."

I couldn't help but laugh at their candor and say, "The Campbells stick together because no one else'll have them. You should stop in at their tent and introduce yourselves."

They looked at each other and shook their heads. "No, we're a little scared of what might happen," they said, still whispering.

Meanwhile, my husband was busy in his "Kept Man" t-shirt, advertising for my books and getting a lot of laughs, and even some promises to visit the tent to see what my books were all about. I was with him on one such occasion when a woman said she'd stop in. He said thank you and I stood there smiling. Then it dawned on me that I should have been the one to thank her and said as much. She just laughed.

At about 4:00 pm, we buttoned up the tent and secured it as well as we could. The wind had really started to pick up, so we all knew what that meant for unwary booth attendants. Overnight would be interesting.

Saturday morning, the wind was still gusty and we wondered what we'd find when we got to the tent. We had done a fine job of anchoring it, as it was still in place, but the tent masters, Doug and Sue Newton, and Herb and Mary Ann Dobbins said there was tent carnage all over the place when they arrived, nearly an hour before us. Some tents were ripped from their stakes in the tar and strewn all over the fairground. Flags, tartans, pamphlets—including raffle tickets to the Caribbean—tartan dog collars, and other interesting items flew around the clan village. It's a hard way to learn about the wind.

Saturday is the day where all the clans—63 all totaled—were to parade onto the field holding their standards high and shouting out their war cry as they're called. I was asked to participate this year! A real honor, as I'm not even Scottish. So four of us marched around clan village then onto the field. It's a brilliant display of tartans and costumes. Very fun.



Our clan's war cry is Fierce When Roused. It's been misprinted to read Fierce when Aroused, much to the delight of many. I had convinced Herb, Doug and Diane to say it the Gàidhlig, which is Garg 'n uair dhuisgear! This is pronounced GARG-en OOR GHOOSH-kar. They had been saying Garden Weasel. Sad, very sad.

So when Clan Donnachaidh was called we shouted it out, well, Herb said it in English, but we all shouted it proudly.

When the Campbells were called, a small group in the audience whoohoo'd, and the Historic Highlanders, the roughest of the bunch—barefooted and long-haired and carrying targes and broadswords—turned, as though practiced, drew their swords and held up their targes against the rebel clan. Even after hundreds of years, some Scots hold a grudge against them! I couldn't help but grin wondering how many others had seen the display.



Then, we marched back to our tent and I proceeded to sell my little heart out.

People of all ages are in the pipe bands. Here's an example of a young man getting a "tuneup."

video

Drummers practicing.



And the Royal Scots Guard was there with their beautiful uniforms and wonderfully decorated drums.



The "Heavies", the Highland athletes, toss the sheaf which weighs about 20 pounds, over the bar being held up by the lift.

video

And, they carry the stones. If two or more competitors carry the stones the entire length of the field, heavier stones are then used. In 2004 at the New Hampshire Highland Games, the record carry is a pair of stones weighing 508 pounds carried just under 100 feet.

video

Here are some other links to YouTube to experience at least a little of what goes on at the Games, such as the traditional pipers of the Massed Bands, the very non-traditional pipers of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers doing their rendition of Coldplay's, Clocks, and of course, Albannach just doing what they do.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Agent News

I got a call from my agent, Grace Morgan, friday about my Despite Them manuscript. Without beating around the bush, she said she loved it! What a load off my mind. You never really know what someone else is going to think about your story until they actually read it. She told me she liked the way I handled my characters and asked if there were going to be other stories in the Macgregor series. I told her I had a plan for at least four.

"Good," she said, "because that bitch at the end has got to go!"

I love that my characters evoke such emotion! You can cry along with them, or you can be pleased that they got what they deserved, and you can rage at them (and me) when I decide to leave the story hanging with the bad guy (or gal) remaining on the loose, enticing you to want more...

She did want to see a few minor changes, things that didn't quite make sense to her, so I spent the day yesterday flushing them out, making revisions, then printing all 309 pages over again.

She told me she's going to pitch Despite Them to Avon Books and Pocket Books first, as they do many of the Scottish stories. If the violence is too much for them, she'll try a few of the men's book publishers. I asked her if she thought I should tone down the graphic nature of the story, and she said, "Oh, hell no. This will sell just fine."

See why I love her?

So now it's another waiting game to see who will pick me up.

Today, we went to the sea to chill out for the morning. Here are a few photos of the tranquility of the coast of Maine.





Sunday, September 6, 2009

Irish Ale and Pirates

We heard about an Irish Pub that has live music after lunch. Let's go, we said. It didn't matter that it was in Lubec, the last town downeast before you reach Canada—about two hours from us. So we hopped in the car on a perfect late summer morning around 8:00 a.m. We decided to make a day of it and return to Schoodic to see how it faired after Hurricane Bill took a slap at it. It was less than an hour out of the way.

What we found when we got there was pretty amazing. Trees that had a tenuous hold on the rocks were uprooted and toppled to the ground. Their skeletons will bleach in the salt air, then be carried away by the next big storm to land who knows where. Boulders weighing several hundred pounds were strewn across the road, many feet from where they'd been settled as barriers, pushed off the pavement by heavy equipment and left as reminders of nature's fury. Perhaps, those who hadn't seen what it looked like before the storm wouldn't see the changes, but we did.

Click on the first link to view a video that gives you an idea of how serene Schoodic normally is. We tried to match the exact location and tide yesterday to the tide we took in the video during the hurricane (click on the second link).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WN2qsAX7fpc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVs--h90agM

After taking in the calm beauty of the sea at Schoodic, we ventured further downeast along Route 1, through small fishing villages, blueberry barrens, and old, open farmland, resting now, without plough or livestock to tend to it. Soon it will be reclaimed by trees and turn back into the woods it was a couple hundred years ago.

A little after noon, we arrived in Lubec. It's a small fishing town overlooking Canada. Home of West Quoddy Lighthouse and some pretty large tides that rise and fall at the rate of 5 feet an hour. You'd best know were high land is if you're on the beach or exploring and island at low tide so you have time to get to it before you're stranded.



We drove right to the end of the road, literally. At the juncture where you can choose to go to Canada or stay in the US, you take a left and follow the coast for a few hundred feet and then you see it. Cohill's Inn and Pub.


We searched for a place to park, as across the street is the ocean and a busy boat launch. We find a spot and walk in.

The place is filled with pirates!! Yup, Aaarrgh, matey! Eye patches, buxom women in wench-wear, men in ruffled shirts, breeks and long coats. And ale. Lots and lots of ale.



We walked up to the bar and the owner/bartender is wearing a kilt with a skull and cross bone t-shirt. I can't help it, but I love pirates! I looked at the owner with a broad grin and said excitedly, "I didn't know there'd be pirates here today!"

"We were invaded," he said happily, as though it occurred regularly.

So we took a seat with an incredible view of the water and ordered a Guiness and Harp. With our ales came a slightly inebriated older gentleman who took a seat at our table. He was a happy sort and told us he lived in the Virgin Islands, a place where there were no virgins.

"You saw to that, I suppose," I said to him.

He smiled and feigned shock, sadly said that he had nothing to do with it, then introduced himself as Mr. Moe. We chatted for a while until his wife was finished talking with a few of the pirates. I hope you're getting an idea of how crazy this was, and it was very fun. Music blasting, beer bottles clinking together, and pirates talking with themselves and anyone who wanted to join them at the tables, and walking around town. The funniest thing is that Mainers aren't fazed by much. They'd just drive by, take a look, raise an eyebrow and continue doing what they were doing. It's a bit like dream where everything—no matter how absurd—makes perfect sense. You gotta love it!

Soon, the pirates—and Mr. Moe, along with his lovely wife, Beverly—meandered out. The the landlubbers returned to their car and the pirates returned to their ship. Well, lobster boat. See, a Pirate Festival was happening in Eastport, just up through the Lubec Narrows, that's where they came from. Apparently, Lubec had more of an appeal for them. Maybe Eastport didn't have an open pub! Either way, we were happy to have been entertained by the jovial lot.

When our meal was served, we ate and watched the seals and seagulls across the street catch their own lunch in the swirling waters. The seals are the black heads popping up and down. They're black and gray speckled and look much like dogs.

video

We got home just before dusk, tired from the day, but happy with the excursion.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Progress



I spoke with my agent, Grace Morgan, this past week, wondering where she stood in reading Despite Them. She told me she was caught in the middle of a rather tedious manuscript and, sadly, hadn't been able to get to my story yet. She said a couple more weeks and she'd be able to devote her time to it.

She gave me quite a compliment, though. When I mailed the manuscript, I also sent her copies of Sightless and Double Vision, which she had not seen or read. She told me she keeps glancing at the covers with longing. "Some covers are bad, some are okay," she told me, "but yours, which I understand you created, are the kind that you just want to pick up and settle in with."

I was thrilled by her professional opinion and can't wait till she actually reads them!

As the weather begins to cool (yes, we've already had temps in the low 40s!) and the days get shorter, my focus turns to writing. I still have another month of working full-time, but am looking forward to beginning Gregor's next adventure. I've already begun the story and know a little of what it'll be about, but as usual, I'm kept in the dark on what will happen until I actually start writing it. In the meantime, he (Gregor) will toss me hints now and again, which I scribble down and hope I can find when I sit down to write. Tidbits of where he's going with the plot, possible characters, and sometimes, lines of text. It's an interesting process.

When my editors read the Eyes of Garnet manuscripts, some tried to guess what would happen next. I just smiled and shrugged, because until it was on paper, I didn't have a clue. Sometimes they tried to interject what they thought should happen, but my characters always had minds of their own and wouldn't be dictated to.

So, I wait a little longer with toes and fingers crossed that Grace will enjoy Despite Them as much as my editors did.

While we wait, if you have a moment and would like to write a review about Double Vision—or either of my other books—write one on Barnes and Noble and/or Amazon. It's always appreciated, and after all it's part of my Shameless Self Promotion!
scuba diving Great Blue Hole

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mother Nature's Fury

Saturday, August 22, 2009.

There's an anticipation of something in the air, an edginess that precludes a storm. Hurricane Bill is churning up the sea to our south. Here, thick fog so dense even the neighbors' houses look like dreamscape—not quite real, as the fingers of moist clouds dance like specters through the open fields and dark spruce. Humidity, the likes of which we don't experience often, hangs close, making it difficult to breathe. Floors are sticky and clothes are damp; towels never fully dry.

Near the sheltered coves where I live, hundreds of small islands protect our part of the Reach from the brunt of the large rollers that are pummeling the open coast right now. But there are places where the full force of the sea can be seen and felt not far from here. I'll wait until the storm is upon us to visit these places and experience the sheer exhilaration of what nature can produce.

Sunday, August 23, 2009.

Overnight we had torrential rains that flattened my deck plants and gladiolas. We woke to cloudy skies, but no fog. Perfect! We'll be able to see the waves at Schoodic Point. This place is about an hour and a half from us further downeast. The pink and black granite basalt left over from some ancient volcano lies in enormous chunks of rubble—the only thing keeping the sea from encroaching into this low-lying area.

We get there around 10:30 am and already there are many brave souls gathered along the rocks. But the Park Rangers have deemed it to dangerous to venture further than the very edge of the road.

Giant rollers lift themselves out of the icy water ever higher, making curls before crashing in thunderous abandon onto the time-smooth rocks. They gather in sets of three to five like hunting dogs in search of wayward prey that they can claim for their own. Every once in a while, a rouge wave, much larger, gets into the mix and shakes the ground as the brunt of its enormity smashes down, creating a foam that flies into the air, lingering for a moment before floating down and becoming mixed with the rest.


The wind isn't too stout, probably a maximum of 15 knots instead of the 30 they predicted. As we watch, the tide is flowing, expecting to peak at 2:30. The throng of people all wishing to glimpse this rarity along the coast is becoming thicker. A little before noon, we begin noticing droves of people retreating from the top viewing areas. The Rangers are moving them down because the waves have begun splashing over the road. There's talk of closing the park before high tide.



Within fifteen minutes, Winter Harbor's finest have decided there is too much splash over and they want everyone out of the viewing area. They herd us out like so much cattle. There are a few who give in and begin to moo. The waves are incredible now.


As we walk down the road, the lucky ones are being sprayed with the salty brine as the waves reach ever closer to the road. The not so lucky are being splashed from head to toe. Rocks, the size of large grapefruits are being tossed onto the road, along with tree branches and seaweed.

The exodus is unhurried, much to the dismay of the Rangers and Police. They sense an urgency we don't share. We're here to witness this event, but alas, we reach the parking area and begin the trek out of the park. Just before that, though, we get the video of a lifetime. 

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Maine Highland Games


The day was, as we Mainers say, "wicked hot." Temps in the mid-80s and high humidity. All those factors didn't bode well with wool kilts, heavy wool jackets, and long-sleeved shirts like this fine gentleman was wearing. He was part of the Historical Scots encampment and those lads must have been roasting in their costumes.

Clan Donnachaidh's tent was one of the chosen few that garnered a shady spot, but until the afternoon breeze kicked in, it was still rather oppressive, even under the big oaks.

Needless to say, the Beer Garden was overflowing with hot and thirsty people, including yours truly. There's nothing better than sipping a ice cold Guinness draught while watching the Heavies (that's what the athletes who toss cabers, sheaths, and stones are called).

I always enjoy selling my books and talking with the people who venture into the clan tent. Many people were previous readers of my books and were searching me out for Double Vision. They were very happy to see it was available. I even had a woman stop in looking for book number four! I was flattered when she said I wasn't writing them fast enough. Actually, I am, I just can't get them published fast enough.

Once again, the t-shirt sayings were interesting. New for this year were:
I married a Scot. Pray for me.
Got Scotch?

And, of course, my husband's t-shirt about being a "kept man" was a favorite with many who vowed to come to the clan tent and help him in his quest. ;0) 

Preiden was there (first photo) playing their Scottish rock, as was a band from Scotland called Scocha (second photo) who sang rowdy pub songs and really got the crowd going, despite the blazing sun.



All in all, we had a great time, as always, and I'll leave you with a movie you can play for a bit of a Scottish experience.

video

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sign of the times

I just returned home from spending a gorgeous day in Bar Harbor; one of the few such days we've had this summer. I did a signing at the Celtic Rainbow, well, I would have done a signing if anyone actually stopped to buy a book. For the most part, I had a feeling I would just be having a great chat with Linda Keady, the owner. She's always willing to have me at her shop, and I always enjoy being there, with or without sales.

For those of you who have never heard of Bar Harbor, Maine, here's a brief overview. Tourist trap of the most extreme sort. Hotels, restaurants, more gift shops than should be allowed in on small town, and yachts from around the globe. For those looking for more nature than glitz, there's Acadia National Park with its hundreds of trails, kayak tours, horseback tours, carriage tours—complete with tea and popovers!—and garden tours. A bit for everyone.

Needless to say, the masses from all over flock to Bar Harbor. Usually. Not this summer, though. The weather has really put a damper (pardon the pun) on the tourists trade. Shops were empty, sidewalks were passable and there were places to park if you looked.

It was the perfect summer day in Maine, yet the masses were nowhere to be seen. It makes me wonder if it's just a sign of the times economically, or if people really just don't care about buying books from the author anymore. Yes, I know there's a significant savings by shopping on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.com, but it seems to me that there is less and less interest in going to hear an author speak or go to a signing.

Pretty much the same thing happened last week when I was invited to speak at our library. I hung posters, took out ads in the papers, send out invitations, and told everyone I knew. Most promised to be there and I was pumped to have a great night. I even made my Single Malt Whisky Cake!

Five people showed up, and one walked out halfway through.

Writing the books is the easy part. Truly! The rest is much like a bad business venture. Do you bail out and write it all off? Or do you wait out the storm and hope for better days?

I know what I'm doing. I'm going to do my part and write my stories and get my books out there. Then I'm going to rely on my readers to help spread the word. It can't be any worse than traveling all over and have no one show up.

But, even though sales were a bust, we had a great time. We ate well, did a little shopping to stimulate the local economy, and had a beer on the deck of a restaurant overlooking the water before heading back home.

Here's a taste of Maine at its best.




















The view from the restaurant.



















A globe trotter's yacht.















The Margaret Todd awaiting a crew.













A little local flavor.













A whale on deck while having a beer.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Serendipity

Serendipity. I love that word.

However, it did not apply to all that transpired this week.

At the end of June I had placed an order for another two cases of Double Vision books. I didn't have a signing that I needed to bring my own books to until the end of July, so I figured there was plenty of time for them to arrive. No frantic rush jobs, no biting my nails and fretting something terrible wondering if the books would arrive in time. Each of the bookstores I was scheduled to have signings at were placing their own orders, so all was good.

Pfffttt! That idyllic world was thrown into chaos, as one by one, the bookstore last week and then this week weren't going to receive their books in time. It now fell on my shoulders to provide copies of Double Vision if I wanted to have my latest book in front of me to sell at the signings.

Normally, this wouldn't have been a problem, but the 50 books I had ordered two months ago had dwindled to a mere 7 and I still hadn't received my order from June!

I brought the 7 with me to the signing last week, and since there are people out there who haven't read the first two books in the trilogy, that amount sufficed for the day.

When I called my publisher to find out why it was taking so long to get my shipment to me, he found a slight problem. He hadn't even sent the order to the printer yet!

I called the bookstores in my area to see if I could borrow some to take with me, but they were only down to a few of their own and couldn't spare them. Dammit! They're selling too well!!!!!

Now the nail biting and fretting over whether I'd have books for the upcoming signing commenced. Big time! Rush jobs, special shipping, tracking the shipment when it finally did get printed, only to learn that the books wouldn't arrive until Monday. A bit late for the signing.

What do you do? Aside from swearing a blue streak (something I'm VERY good at!), you learn that you're not the only author this has ever happened to. I can now say I'm in a very select group of world-class writers who've had to work around these nuisance snafus, and take orders with a promise of delivering their book personalized and signed just as soon as possible.

So, when I arrived with just a proof copy of Double Vision in my hand for this morning's signing, the owner of the bookstore was a bit upset, but shrugged and said that it wasn't the first time, and that we'd work around it, just as I described.

I set up my table with plenty of copies of Eyes of Garnet and Sightless, and the lone proof copy of Double Vision with a skewed cover.

Then the most amazing thing happened.

Nothing!!

I sold one book right off, then barely a soul walked into the store. I sat there for an hour and spoke to one person. All that anxiety during the week for naught.

There's a lesson here. Worrying does nothing but shrink your nail length, turn your hair gray, and put you in a snarly mood. I really need to start taking my own advise and stroll through life with the intent that it will all work out in the end. Whether you fret or go through without a care, trust that everything happens for a reason, and normally, it's for the best.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Perfect Day

Yesterday, I did a book signing during Castine Days in Castine, Maine, a few towns to the west of me. The weather was finally sunny and, although very breezy, was a perfect summer day.

Sharon Biggie, owner of the Compass Rose Bookstore in town promotes my books at a phenomenal rate, and I was pleased to have a very nice sales day for her (and myself!), keeping my "Best Selling Author in Castine" title in tact!

Castine is also known as Pentagöet, the settlement Catrìona frequents when desiring an apple pie. It's a beautiful town filled with 18th and 19th century stately homes.























After a few hours talking with travelers from around the country, my husband and I walked down to Dennett's Wharf for a lunch on the water.

The breeze had turned to nearly a gale by then, and when we noticed french fries flying off the plates of those brave and unsuspecting souls sitting in the full brunt of the wind, we chose a seat under the canopy to have our lobster roll and haddock burger.