Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Em NC

The 2014 book festival season kicked off for me this past weekend in Lumberton, NC where Roberson Community College hosted Book Em NC. 

Seventy-five authors!

Hundreds of books!

Sessions on writing, sessions on publishing. How to, how not to. 

Author's lounge!

For me the most fun was touring the author tables and gleaning ideas. Oh, the candy bowls, wonderfully delicious. One author who writes about pirates had a treasure trunk full of chocolates.

So I'm not a professional photographer, but this photo I snapped of my table display shows my attempts at spreading the word about my books.

How do you sell mountain stories in the flatlands? 

Easy. You share techniques. You share processes and ideas. Yes, Lessons Learned is a story about a school in the South Mountains of North Carolina. But it is also the story about growing up in the forties, the fifties and sixties. It is unique and at the same time it is universal. The reader sees himself in the pages, no matter what decade or which century. That is the selling point.

And before you leave, look in the far right side of the display table. There in the glare of the camera's flash is the first hint to my newest project. Coming soon!
Catch of the day,


Monday, February 10, 2014

British Invasion

The British Invasion. That's how I remember the fifty years ago arrival of the Beatles. Yes, I was in love. Paul. No I wasn't one of the screaming fans in the streets, but I would have been if my mother had let me go all the way to New York City.

And that is the key. Not the distance. The mothers. And the fathers. Those parents who saw these Beatles as invaders. They didn't look threatening to me when Ed Sullivan brought them onstage. Threatening they were to an older generation.
So the boys in my school started wearing Beatles style hair cuts. The girls started wearing black. Not me, but a few of my friends. That didn't threaten me like an invasion should. I was young, having fun, forgetting that our nation's innocence was shattered only months before in Dallas, Texas. Nor did it threaten my mom. She laughed. She tsk-tsked. She knew it wouldn't last, as in "This too shall pass."


Fifty years later the tributes keep coming.

Fifty years later their music keeps charming the hearts of young people.

Nearly fifty years later I captured Beatles stories for Lessons Learned. How the eighth grade students begged the teacher to play their music during after lunch quiet time. How one boy lost his mop-top wig during a Beatles impression in front of the PTA. How bluegrass music and Beatles music shared equal time at school dances.

I captured Kennedy assassination stories, too, from the same people. They didn't connect the two, neither did I until talking faces on TV this weekend pointed out that the timing of the Beatles phenomena wasn't all that a coincidence. It was us, the American youth, looking for relief from a tragedy not even three months old. Maybe it began our healing process.

Last week I interviewed a ninety-two year old man for a project I'm currently working on. He said one thing that reminds me that yes, we, those who lived back then, are authorities about the Beatles, about the Kennedy assassination, about the past.
This is who we are. It’s not that we’re so knowledgeable, but we lived what we know. If that makes any sense. The way we remember things is because we lived it. 
Remembering the Beatles, watching the tributes fifty years later, what joy that was to me, especially since three months ago the television and online buzz was all about a fifty year old sadness that never went away.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Word of the Day

Every morning, one of my writer friends (Hi, Debbie!) posts a word of the day on her facebook page. She selects unusual words that I would never think to illuminate. But they work for her. Take for instance today's post that I read bright and early this morning:

The word for the day is outre. Life is so much more interesting when you show your kooky, quirky and wacky side.

See what I mean? Such a classy word, but when have I used it lately?

So borrowing from her, today my blog post shall be a Word of the Day that will showcase my kooky, quirky and wacky side, well at least outre enough to go along with an online tool I just discovered, Google Ngram Viewer. (Hi Joyce, thanks for the link to this!)  This new tool will be a great resource for me as a writer of period pieces to make sure my word selections match the era.

My selection shall be piccolo. Sounds familiar, a flute-like musical instrument, right? This word came up last week during an interview about my current project when the person I was talking with said she put money in the piccolo at the skating rink. We're talking early 1940's. Coin operated. I must have made a squishy face because she felt the need to explain it to me. It was a jukebox, the original brand name for jukebox, as in "Here's a nickel, put another song on the Piccolo."

Source:  Musikbox Treff Arietta Jukebox

So off I go to play (authors play with words, remember) on the internet. I check google, I check wikipedia, I check ngram. That's my newest toy, oops, tool, ngram, the frequency words appear in text in the last two hundred years, not only that, but actual samples of usage that demonstrate how word meanings change over the years. According to ngram, word usage for outre peaked in 1970, but is at its lowest usage now. I can also read samples of it in literature throughout those time periods. What a toy, er, tool!

Piccolo, sure enough, was on the charts from the beginning of their research target, 1800, but aha, peaking in 1937. (Takes a couple years to get to the backwoods of the Carolinas, so 1941 of my manuscript would fit the time frame.) Jukebox beginning in 1937, peaking in 2002. Interesting. I searched but didn't spend time to find when the two intersected. Instead I turned to another tool, my favorite because of its homepage picture of the day, Bing, and there it was, Piccolo, a jukebox. Bingo.

Word usage changes and authors must keep on their toes. I found that to be true often during my Pilot Mountain project as words that were commonly used in the forties and fifties had no connection to today. Anybody played with a mollypop lately? A taw?

Today I was going to post about a term writers use, pantsing, as in "Which writing technique works best for you, plotting or pantsing, outlining or writing by the seat of your pants?" But when I used ngram and checked the many usages of pantsing, I decided I would find a much tamer word. You are welcome to explore that one on your own.

Catch of the day,