Sunday, February 23, 2014

Vallentine's Store

I haven't forgotten about anyone. I have actually been out and about with my camera, something I have missed doing. Since I will be in Costa Rica next week (1st week of March), I thought I would get together some things to show you while I am gone. 

In Cope, SC (a small town, population 76) there is the historic Valletine's Store, an old Texaco Filling Station, for y'all who know what a "filling station" is. I had not seen it in years and happened upon it on my way home from Bamberg. They've done a pretty good job keeping it up.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bowen's Island, Where's That?

The lady from the newspaper called back. My heart was all a flutter. Finally she had seen the light or someone had clued her in. Foiled once again. "I picked up the photograph, but I need to know what the retail value is and what the picture is of?" It was all beginning to become clear to me. When I gave her the retail price and told her the picture was of Bowen's Island, her response was - "Where's that?

I told her it was a small island off Folly Road with a wonderful local seafood place that served the best oysters. "Oh, that's nice. I've never heard of it."

Well honey if you live in South Carolina and you do not know where Bowens Island is, then my feelings are not hurt that are not aware of my  little book. I didn't ask, but just assumed she didn't eat oysters and would find the atmosphere there not to her liking. To each there own. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Local Paper Calls

The phone rang yesterday and a lady introduced herself as someone from the local paper. She said that the paper was sponsoring a fundraising event in March highlighting local authors and their work. She went on to describe how the event would give the authors a chance to have book signings, meet and greet readers, and some even a chance to speak about their writing. There would also be a silent auction. Of course, she said, all the proceeds would go to our charity.

I was amazed. The local newspaper actually knew about my book only 2 weeks after it hit Amazon and only days after it went out in paperback. But then our town is small, how many local authors do we have? 

Wow, this could be the break I had been waiting for. The timing could not be better. She said that she had seen my work and hoped that I would be willing to participate. Participate? Sign me up, tell me when and where, and I'll be there with bells on and a fresh pound cake. But I came out of my dreamy haze when she finished "to donate one of your pictures for the silent auction. If you are willing, I could pick it up on Wednesday."

Politely, as my Mama raised reared me, I told her I would be more than happy to donate a picture. But not to be dissuaded, I added, "I assume you are not aware I just wrote a book." Her comment was a bland,"Oh." I added,"It is the story of my mother. It has been out on Amazon for about three weeks." "Well that's nice. If you can just have the picture ready we will greatly appreciate that." "The story is a memoir but is both humorous and poignant. I wrote it from a southern point of view." "Well it was nice talking with you. I'll pick that picture up on Wednesday."

As I hung up the phone I wondered if I told her that Mama lived most of her life in Orangeburg that would have mattered. Better yet, knowing my Daddy was in the Medical Profession certainly would have clenched it and got me on the program.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Nice Girls are Panned by the Reviewers

One trait southerners are known for more than any other is being nice. Well, they all think when we say "Bless your heart", we mean it literally, but then let them live with that false impression for a while. After all, we would not want to hurt their feelings.

When I set out to write the book about my mother I fretted about the alcoholism. Would it make her look bad?  Would it make me look ungrateful? Would my family disown me? I wrangled with this for a long while. As I wrote, there were chapters I penned about ugly times that all children of alcoholics had faced. There were the embarrassing moments that one could not find any humor in. There were the actions she took that made her look horrid in any light.

I would put in and take out, put in and take out. Finally I wrote the first part. I questioned using the chapter title "Southern Women, Drunks, and Silver". Had I gone too far?

Now I am beginning to get the critical reviews. Before the book was released I contacted 25-30 book reviewers who particularly like independent writers and I chose those who preferred my genre. I wanted their thoughts and criticism. And now the reviews are coming in. Is the book entertaining? Oh, yes. Is it southern? Why yes. Did it keep your interest? Yes. Could you relate Yes (I am convinced every critic  I contacted was the child of an alcoholic - or so they said.)

Their main complaint - I was too easy. I did not go into the depths of the drinking. I sugar coated over that. I made light of the situation. If it really were a problem, why did I not dwell on it.

Perhaps, I should have just left that part out all together. If I cannot do something well, why do it? 
Being nice is killing me in the reviews.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

These are the Times that . . .

Even praying to the Virgin Mary will not save the trees in our yard, our nerves, or our tempers. But we can hope. However, as my college roommate advised me, remind them of the Donner Pass and perhaps they will stay in line. The salt and pepper is on the kitchen table. I'm just saying . . .

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Black Box of Repressions

Someone once said repressed memories are not such a bad thing - there is a reason they are repressed. I never really thought about it. Heck, I never really worried about it.  I never questioned what was in that little black box left in the back corner of my mind. I justified it as what the ER would use when I arrived in the ambulance after some horrible incident. But when I saw on TV that the little "Black Boxes" they put on airplanes were actually orange, it begged to ask - why was mine black. But, I digress. 

When I wrote my book, it started as a few stories about my mother. The more I wrote the more I remembered. It all came flooding back to me - the good and the bad. Suddenly everything I saw brought back some random memory. An example was driving through the countryside and seeing the foundation of an old house. Old bricks!

One of the reviewers of the book commented that the book skimmed over the drinking years. The book wasn't something I wrote from a therapy couch trying to rid my soul of demons, as if I should open that black box. At first I was hurt by this - the writing was weak because I didn't tackle this subject. Then it dawned on me it was my book and I could write whatever I wanted to as long as it was accurate. The purpose wasn't to please the critics, the purpose was to tell an entertaining story about someone I loved.

As for the little black box, well it can just stay back there with the cobwebs. I have done just fine as I am. And, as for information for the ER, who has ever heard of a personal orange box in someone's mind any way? But then some folks have bats in their belfry. Some are air heads. I prefer to think my elevator does got to the top and when the doors open it isn't the clearance section.

And, I'm sure my Mama would have some quip to make. This is one time I wish I knew what she would say.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Historic Places with Cost Plus Furniture

If my Mama could not compete, she had a habit of making snide remarks (under her breath of course - no polite southern lady would say such things out loud). An example I remember happened when we were visiting my cousins. My mother's brother was the overseer of three large (historic) plantations in Virginia on the James river. Since a well to do family owned the farms and did not live on the properties, my uncle and his family lived in one of the homes.

Now this home was not just any home, this happened to be a house listed on the Register of Historic places. The house dated back to the 1700's (if not earlier). It was huge and sat on a hill overlooking the James river. I can remember the first time we went to see them getting out of the car and being in awe. All I could think of was my cousins lived in this large famous old house. 

When we walked in the first thing you noticed were the huge rooms that ran from the front of the house to the back with huge windows that still had the original glass in them. The floors were 10 inch wide plank hardwood. And, in some of the rooms were pieces of the original furniture built for the house. The pieces were so large, they were built in the house. They were also so large they would have to be broken apart to be removed. Therefore they were left in place. 

Of course these lovely solid wood priceless antiques were in stark juxtaposition with my Aunt's furniture more in the style of Cost Plus Furniture Warehouse that finished out the room. Well, my mother could hardly hold herself. As soon as we were upstairs unpacking she started. "Can you believe this? Does she have any taste? Well, of course she doesn't. We knew that. But, my Lord, how embarrassing. I wonder what the owner's think when they come? Well, hopefully they just never come. I'm sure she would have had those lovely pieces torn down and thrown out if she could have. Oh, some people."

By this time, my father had given her his - please stop this, everyone is not like you and you know better - look. Another issue she was having was that her sister-in-law was the daughter of a Baptist minister so, needless to say, the house was dry. The liquor bag had been left in the car.

Meanwhile I was just old enough to realize that this place was way cool, but still a little confused about my mother's constant disparaging comments about the situation at hand. Her comments would make one think there was a washing machine on the front porch and a car on blocks in the front yard. 

Over the weekend, my uncle showed us around. He was (and still is) a favorite of mine. He spent a lot of time taking us down to the river and helping us find arrowheads and shards of pottery. (Mama reminded us that we could also find arrowheads on the riverbank at our river house "Nowhere".) We went to the stables and saw the horses the landowners used for their fox hunts. (Mama pointed out to her brother that I had taken riding lessons and rode hunt seat.) He showed us the houses on one of the other plantations where the owners had a pond that was heated so they could enjoy the swans year round. (Mama commented that home was furnished fittingly with fine antiques.)

Back at their house, my cousins and I were walking around the vast front yard when we came upon a cemetery. Imagine a cemetery in your front yard - wow! As we looked at the different ancient tomb stones. My cousin said, "See this one." I looked at the stone she pointed at. The name didn't mean anything to me. "Know who that is?" "No." "Pocahontas's granddaughter." "No way?" "Yes way." OK, I was impressed, that was pretty hard to top.

Finally the weekend was over and we left. On our way home, Mama started her rant about how tacky my aunt's  furniture was, and everything else she could think of. Finally I piped up from the back seat. "That might be, but not everyone has Pocahontas's granddaughter buried in their front yard." 

"Oh, they made that up," she said. My father just laughed. "No, they didn't make that up. Her grave is among some other fairly famous folks who are buried there." Mama just said, "Hmh" and sat there. My father looked in the rear view mirror and winked at me. 

Suddenly Mama's house she designed with her colonial columns and old brick just wasn't the same. It didn't matter how much she tried to produce something that looked authentic, no matter how it was furnished, having Pocahontas's granddaughter buried in your front yard, just trumped it all.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I Shall Be Happy With #4

I know this may be my 5 minutes of fame, but I shall bask:

Sterling Silver and Dollar Stores: Life with My Southern Mother [Kindle Edition]

Product Details

Of course this and 75 cents will buy you a small cup of coffee at Hardees. 

If I can just get a few folks who bought the book and are now reading it, to take the time and go back to Amazon, give the book an honest rating and maybe write a review, we may just stay in the top 10 in this genre. Doing so, helps sell more. It's the chicken or the egg, the rest get scrambled. 

Now, I am waiting for some readers to get to a certain chapter and go, "Oh."  "Why I have been in that same situation. And, oh my. This sounds very familiar. That wasn't very nice was it."

No doubt I will be dropped from Christmas card lists, talked about over coffee klatches, and "can you believe the audacity of her'd" at the mail boxes (Oh, no, not the mailboxes! - you have to read the book.) But, then I am already getting the emails of, "You should have told the story of . . ."

Perhaps, I should take my time getting the hard copy out given who that audience may be. I would rather not be run out of town.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Post Partum

I have never spent as much time on FB as I did yesterday. The idea was to make sure everyone knew it was "The" day, in case they did not know that the world was supposed to come to an absolute halt. What? You did not know that? Never got the memo?

When I uploaded the manuscript Sunday night Amazon said it would be on the site in 12 hours. So, being a good little southern girl who thinks folks are generally honest (and I still believe in Santa Claus - why give up a good thing you have going.) Then this morning, after I had made a fool out of myself with unabashed self promotion telling everyone - "It's There!" "Go Get It" "Go See It". Then oops, it wasn't there. An hour later, it still wasn't there.

It was hard enough for me to beg everyone to please go to a website, and spend their time and money to purchase something I created. Now there was nothing to see or buy. I had not been this embarrassed since Ronda Sandford told my six grade class I liked Bill Cartwright - in front of God and everybody, including Mr. Cartwright. 

After contacting Amazon, they said, "Oh yeah it may be today or in two weeks, we're kinda backed up." I wanted to crawl in my computer and press the delete key. So I went back on FB and apologized, begged forgiveness and prayed someone would still care next week.

Then Hallelujah, out of the blue, my book was published. This was beginning to be cruel and unusual punishment. But, then friends I knew and some I did not until yesterday, came through and bought the book, commented about it, and told their friends. This is why I still believe in Santa Claus.

Part 1 was writing the book, Part 2 was getting it out there (on Amazon). Now Part 3, is for everyone (or as many as possible) who bought the book to go back to Amazon and give the book an honest 1-5 rating and take 1 minute to write a review. Oh, then Part 4, is the Pulitzer Prize. 

First I need to make sure that this book does not languish at the bottom of the memoir list. I did not write it for the money, it is a work of love. But, out of pride, I just cannot let it just sit there. So, for those who have supported my work, I am forever indebted. For those who have not yet had a chance, check out my Blog about the book,  Sterling Silver and Dollar Stores

Monday, February 3, 2014

Live and in Color!

Well I did it. I mashed that button, the one that said "Publish". What have I done? Now God and everybody will know that I have written this book. How many people will have their feelings hurt that I wrote about them? How many people will have their feelings hurt that I didn't write about them? I only hope they read the two disclaimers I wrote as well as the introduction explaining that it was all going to end well and the afterword explaining how I thought it all went OK. 

Now I just need everyone I know, have ever known, have ever met, and their kin, their neighbors, their long lost cousins who live Debuke, as well as their Aunt Silvia no one speaks of, to be curious enough to go to Amazon and search for "Sterling Silver and Dollar Stores" under books. Click on the link - please. Just doing that will show Amazon that I have friends (or at least I could talk folks into at least going there).

If you would like to part with $2.99 and buy the book (which would be awfully nice of you) then I would really appreciate it if when you finished reading the book you would go back to the site and rate the book (1-5 stars) and write an honest review of your thoughts. And then casually mention to your friends and neighbors that you just read this book, . . . , well I can dream.

But then, it is a compelling story about a southern lady, an eccentric lady, who over comes the odds and comes back for a second act. I think readers will find it humorous , endearing, touching, sad, and poignant at times. But, the story is interesting - or at least I think so.

Seriously, I just ask that you go to Amazon and click on the link to the book, no investment but your time. This effort on your part could possibly make big difference in the convoluted Amazon algorithm of how they determine their rankings. Apparently, it is more than just your pretty face. 

So that is today's news.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Nebraska, a movie review

It took a while for me to get around to seeing Nebraska. The trailers did not appeal to me: a black and white movie about an old man trying to get to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim the Million Dollars the letter he received in the mail said he had won. But, when all else has been seen and the film has been given a Best Picture nomination by the Academy then perhaps it is time to see it.

I had forgotten what a fine actor Bruce Dern is.  And, this film shows him at the top of his craft. Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is an old geezer with a love for booze who is short for words. Will Forte plays his son David who agrees to take him to Lincoln to claim his "Million Dollar Sweepstakes" only because David cannot convince him that the award letter is a sham. Woody is determined to get to Lincoln to claim his prize. 

It is the journey that makes up the story and like Woody, who is a man of few words, the dialogue in this film is carefully scripted. There are moments of silence that say so much. Although the movie has a serious tone, there are many well written humorous scenes. Dern is nominated for Best Actor and richly deserves the nod. His performance is powerful as a scruffy, bent, boozing old man who looks as if life has taken the best from him. 

June Squibb plays his wife, Kate, who at first comes off as a nagging spouse with nothing good to say. But as the film moves along, she becomes the color in the otherwise black and white. Her rich dialogue is frequented with a sailor's language and she tells it like it is, the good and the bad. Where as the majority of Woody's mid-western family and friends are plain spoken and polite, Kate takes no prisoners. She also richly deserves her Best Actress Nomination.

In addition to Woody, David, and Kate, there is a cast of characters to round out the story and make the trip to Lincoln, with a stop in his home town where he grew up, interesting and revealing. And, the black and white is very effective in telling the story of a man from a simple mid-western town. Although, a storm did not come, the house was not carried away, the witch did not die, and everything suddenly was not in color, they did reach Lincoln for Woody to turn in his letter to the sweepstakes office. 

There were winners. There always are in the eyes of the beholders. I recommend this film. It is 115 minutes of well made craft. And, while I'm not sure it is THE best film of the year, it is definitely among the best, and who knows may be a dark horse after all.