Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Fresh-Picked Bouquet for Mama

My mama used to say, ''Never toot your own horn, honey. It's tacky!''

But I can't resist just a tiny bit of horn-tooting today. Fresh Fiction, a fun website devoted to bookish pursuits, named my second mystery, MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN, as a Fresh Pick.

Here's the link, if you'd like to check it out:

I'm particularly pleased because SHOTGUN was a pick of the day during the same week the almighty Charlaine Harris was honored for Poppy Done to Death, and my good friend Peggy Webb was noted for her latest funny mystery, Elvis and the Grateful Dead. (Elvis is a basset hound who believes he's the King reincarnated ... and I thought the Mama character from my mystery series was wacky!)

Hear that musical sound in the background? That's me, tooting my horn like Louis Armstrong. What a Wonderful World!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Punchdrunk at SIBA

I'm certain high-minded literature was being discussed somewhere during the annual trade show of the Southern Independent Booksellers Association (SIBA).

But it wasn't at Booth W-42, where I was stretched out on the floor inside a mock chalk outline, drumming up business for myself and my fellow Sisters in Crime, authors of murder mysteries.

That would be me, left (photo by Ellis Vidler), displaying an appalling lack of shame when it comes to book promotion. Really, would Flannery O'Connor ever have stooped ... er, reclined ... to such a stunt?

Of course, it was the last day of the trade show, which took place this year in Greenville, S.C., Sept. 24-27. I might have been a bit punchdrunk by then. Acting all erudite takes a toll.

Did I mention the clear liquid in the jar in my hand was moonshine? At least that's what Jerry Alexander, looking on in the picture, said it was. And he should know, since he wrote Where Have All Our Moonshiners Gone? A former newspaper publisher and deceptively sophisticated-looking gent, Jerry manned the booth next door to Sisters in Crime. Along with his books, his display's central feature was a moonshine still. That, and a chicken feeder that dispensed Hershey's Kisses.

I loved the trade show. My Southern-fried books fit right in. I'm pleased to say I introduced the latest, Mama Rides Shotgun, to lots of booksellers who might not have otherwise known about the Mace Bauer Mystery Series.

My titles earned a few laughs (Mama Does Time was the first in 2008; Mama Gets Hitched comes out next year). That's saying something in this crowd, considering some of the other books being touted to the Southern bookstore owners over the weekend:

Will Jesus Buy me a Double-Wide? 'Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV, by Karen Zacharias.
Suck Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On, by Shellie Tomlinson.
Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, by Susan Gregg Gilmore.

People say you can't judge a book by its cover, and maybe not by its title, either. But just try to pass by any of those titles in a bookstore without at least pulling it from the shelf.

Of course, there were plenty of serious literary offerings as well. But I was too busy lying on the floor and trying to wrest chocolate kisses from Jerry's chicken feeder to report on any of those.

Maybe next time. The SIBA trade show in 2010 will be in Daytona Beach. Just don't count on a high-minded analysis from me if they hold it the same week as the Daytona Speedway hosts NASCAR.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hobby Horse

By Deborah Sharp

Guest blogging is a popular way for authors to reach new readers. My friends at Killer Hobbies invited me to post today, even though I confessed to being hobby-less. Fellow author Joanna Campbell Slan disagreed:

''You rode a horse all the way across the state of Florida,'' she said. "THAT'S your hobby.''

"What? Doing age-inappropriate things for which I am insanely unprepared?''

"No,'' Joanna said patiently. "Horseback riding.''

That marathon, six-day ride I did to research MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN was a bit more of my ''hobby,'' however, than I bargained for: 120 miles. Sleeping on the ground. At age 50-plus. What the heck was I thinking??? Two years later, the feeling is finally returning to my rear end.

(The terrific picture above, of me atop Domino for the 2007 Florida Cracker Trail ride, was taken by Judge Nelson E. Bailey. Check out his great pictures here. )

But, Joanna's right --- if we can loosely define ''hobby'' as something I manage to do very occasionally, usually while my husband Kerry and I are on our annual vacation. That's not a bad thing, since we've had the chance to ride in some incredible locations, thanks to Kerry's globe-trotting inclinations. If it were up to me, I'd return yearly to the same hammock under a palm tree in nearby Key West. But over our 20-year marriage, Kerry ALWAYS opts for the exotic: Native criollo ponies on a wind-swept estancia in Argentina, Tennessee walkers on
Washington State's Orcas Island, ancient creatures outfitted with even-older wooden saddles (!) in Guatemala.

Still, I long for the time in my life when riding was less an infrequently indulged hobby and more an obsession.

Was anyone as consumed with horses as I was at 13? Equine tales ruled my bookshelf: BLACK BEAUTY, MY FRIEND FLICKA, and MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE.

I drew horses on my paper-bag book covers during school, and dreamed of them all night. When
I got Val, a beautiful quarter horse, we galloped over open pastures and through orange groves, on land planted now with south Florida strip malls.

I loved that horse so much that I slept overnight in her stall on a bed of hay more than once.

Does anybody feel like that about a hobby?

I still get a guilty twinge, all these years later, remembering how I cast Val aside once I discovered the world of boys and dating. Of course, we found her a good home, with a young girl still safely in pre-adolescence. I sobbed when they loaded Val in the trailer to go.

How about you? Have you ever been emotionally attached to a hobby -- or a horse? And how did you feel when you let that hobby go?