Hey Y'all!

It took me awhile to get here, but alas I'm finally joining the blogosphere of bloviation. It took a rant floating around in my head to send me toward this journey, but so be it. We'll have some fun here too. I promise. Thanks for stopping by! Don't forget to leave me a comment or two. ~ diane

Monday, November 22, 2010

Giving Thanks for Good Books

Thanksgiving is upon us, and a more perceptive blogger might take this opportunity to list all the things she's thankful for this year - family, friends, blessings, yada yada . . . I'm thankful, of course, but my friends & family all know I love them. Instead I've opted to use this post to give thanks for some other loves of my life: BOOKS! I cannot imagine life without books, can you? It's been almost four months since our last book chat, so we've got a lot of catching up to do. I'll try to keep my comments brief. There's a link on each book's title if you'd like to read more.

For Laci: A Mother's Story of Love, Loss, and Justice
by Sharon Rocha
Who doesn't remember the dazzling smile of Laci Peterson who went missing on Christmas Eve of 2002? Laci's mother wrote this tribute to her daughter so we could get to know the beautiful young, expectant mother beyond the headlines of her brutal murder and that of her unborn child by her husband Scott. It's a heartbreaking story to read, but I'm glad I read it.

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
I couldn't put it down, but I really didn't like it - as is often the case with most Oprah Book Club selections. If you like depressing stories about seriously dysfunctional characters, you'll love it. For the record, I haven't eaten a Mallomar cookie since reading this. Just sayin' . . .

A Mile in My Flip Flops by Melody Carlson
Two of my best reading buddies hated this book, but I enjoyed it! Thirty year old Gretchen Hanover, recently jilted by her fiance, turns to house-flipping for the summer. Hey, I'm a sucker for those makeover shows. What would you expect?

by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
This is a life-changing read and a true story. Its subtitle best describes the premise: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together. Sounds bizarre but I adored this book. Treat yourself and read it. Did I mention it's life-changing?

Under the Cajun Moon by Mindy Starns Clark
LOVED this novel about the daughter of a famous New Orleans chef who gets framed for murder. With the help of a handsome childhood beau, she must clear her name . . . a process that takes her deep into Louisiana's rich history. Grab some cafe au lait & beignets, and take a trip down south!

Heading Home by my friend, John Robinson
As I wrote on my official review, "Heading Home was extremely hard to put down! John Robinson has crafted a compelling story that kept me flipping pages long into the night. I'm a sucker for stories about Viet Nam vets because I still feel we owe them such a huge debt of gratitude . . . but this tale far exceeded my expectations . . . I have to say, the last four chapters were the most riveting final chapters of any book I've ever read!" Don't miss this one!

Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman
There was no way I could NOT read this book, written by the wife of singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman. Mary Beth tells the heart-wrenching story of the accidental death of their five-year-old daughter Marie. How this family overcame such a devastating tragedy is a tribute to their rock-solid faith in a God who's always there - even in the face of such unspeakable loss.

by my friend, Alice K. Arenz
WOW. Alice has spun an incredible story of mystery and intrigue that kept me up reading several nights! Rookie journalist Cassandra Chase is assigned to cover a murder case; the victim, a woman who looks exactly like her. I love when a plot catches me off guard, and this one certainly did. Don't miss this roller coaster ride!  

June Bug by Chris Fabry
“I believed everything my daddy told me until I walked into Walmart and saw my picture on a poster." Talk about a great hook! From the promo material: For as long as she can remember, June Bug and her father have traveled the back roads of the country in their beat-up RV, spending many nights parked at Walmart. One day, as she walks past the greeter at the front of the store, her eyes are drawn to the pictures of missing children, where she is shocked to see herself. I laughed, I cried, but mostly I just adored this book, told primarily in nine-year-old June Bug's whimsical voice. A modern day re-telling of Les Miserables, this is one of my favorite reads this year. Put it on your Christmas wish list!

Out of time, so here's a list of the other books I've recently read:
Eclipse (Book #3 of the Twilight Saga) by Stephanie Meyer (I know, I know . . .)
Draw Near by Sherry Blankenship - a mother's touching memoir written by my sister's dear friend
The Loop by Nicolas Evans (Odd book. Who knew you could write from a wolf's point of view?)
Until the Last Dog Dies by John Robinson (1st of his Joe Box series - can't wait to read the rest!)
Kiss Me, I'm Irish - by Bella Street (pre-pub reading - loved it!)

And the book I'm currently reading: Decision Points by George W. Bush.

Happy reading, my friends, and may you have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Book Signings: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

After a recent road trip, I promised to post on the subject of book signings. Obviously I’m new to all this, and I have to say it’s been quite a learning experience. Mostly I’ve learned what doesn’t work. I’d heard horror stories from other authors, so I wasn’t totally surprised. Still, some of my first “adventures” were just plain weird.

Like the manager of a conference center bookstore who wasn’t the least bit interested in helping making the event successful. No signage. No advertising. When I offered to supply her with bookmarks to give out in the store that weekend, she said no thanks. She set up our table in the most off-the-path location on campus. The signing was scheduled during the dinner hour when everyone was racing to get in those long cafeteria lines. The result? *Cue the chirping crickets.* I think I signed six books. (The nice lady in the photo didn't even buy one!) One of the other authors left half-way through. I didn’t blame him. *Yawn*

Then there was the last-minute event at a major bookseller here in Nashville. I'm biting my tongue here, so I won’t point fingers, but clearly there was a communication problem because the date was (supposedly) scheduled months in advance. Less than 48 hours before the signing, there was nothing about our event on their webpage, no signage in the store. A phone call sent them all scrambling. A table was set up - in the back of the store. A sign was hastily printed – with two of the authors' names misspelled (including mine). They even had the name of our publishing house wrong. The result? *Cue the chirping crickets again.* I signed one book. But let’s be honest. If no one knew we were coming . . . ? So we passed out a few bookmarks to the handful of midweek mall shoppers and called it a night. *Yawn*

And then there was the recent book festival. The roar of the crickets chirping that weekend was deafening. Didn't see too many people buying books. I didn’t sign a single copy. I'm sure it's just the economy . . . yeah. That's probably it.

But enough about the bad ones.

Let me tell you about Martha Brangenberg, bookstore manager extraordinaire of Charis Christian Bookstore in Largo, Florida (that's Martha in the photo between Teresa & me). The bookstore is a ministry of the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. My good friend Teresa Nardozzi started that bookstore 25 years ago and today, it is a thriving, beautiful store there on the church campus. Weeks before my visit to Florida, Martha contacted the distributor to make sure she had plenty of copies of my book. She put a blurb in the church paper. She gave the media folks an ad to post on the TV screens throughout the church buildings. She made sure there was a notice about my book signing in the church bulletins for all four church services that weekend.

Martha set up an end display in the heart of the bookstore and a table for my signing where we’d get the most traffic. And did we ever! It was such a blast to see so many old friends of mine, make so many new friends, and sign soooooo many books! (I think we sold around 85! Not too shabby for a first-time author!) 

On Monday, Martha had set up a beautiful table for me to sign more books after I spoke to the monthly MOPS gathering. I was blown away by the response and interest of that enormous group of women! Then on Tuesday, Martha made sure we had plenty of copies of my book at both the morning and evening Ladies Bible Study gatherings where I spoke.

What have I learned through these book signing events?

1. There are those who have a passion for what they do, and then there are those who do only enough to get by - if they feel like it.

2. There are those who are genuinely happy to host book signings, and there are those for whom it’s nothing but a big bother.

3. There are those who love to connect readers with authors, and yes, Virginia, sadly there are people who work in bookstores who don’t even like to read.

4. There sure are lots of crickets chirping out there . . .

Bottom line, THANK YOU, Martha Brangenberg! Your passion for what you do shines through your Christ-like attitude, your hard work, your efforts, your sweet smile, and your many kindnesses. The booksellers of our world could learn volumes through you! (Pun definitely intended!) I cannot thank you enough for restoring my faith in this whole process and exemplifying the way it’s supposed to be done. I'll never forget it. You've set the bar high, Martha! May God bless the socks off you!