Thriller Novelist Rose Senehi’s Book Tour

Because of the popularity of Melinda Rainey Thompson and Morgan Murphy’s post on their book tour, we’ve asked another of our authors, thriller novelist Rose Senehi, to write about her recent adventures on the road.  Thanks, Rose!

The Wind in the WoodsIn early March 2010, with the economy in turmoil, I was a little apprehensive about starting a 40-book store tour throughout the Carolinas for my new novel, The Wind in the Woods.

But the terrific send-off the book got from the folks at the Mountains Branch Library in Lake Lure must have been magic…especially since it was held at the site where Dirty Dancing was filmed.

Believe me, with all the delicious food and Irish Coffee, no book ever got a better send-off.

But my favorite part of this demanding tour has been meeting book lovers and having a chance to say hello to my fans. There are so many unique experiences you meet along the way. Once, a woman picked up my book and read the back cover. I told her it was a thriller and asked her if she scared easy.

She looked at me in incredulity and said, “Scare easy? I’m married.”

With all the attention The Wind in the Woods is getting, it would be easy to get a swelled head.  But there are little things that keep you grounded, like the time a mother brought her five-year-old over to my table and said, “Look honey, this lady wrote this book.” She flipped it over. “See. Her picture’s on the back.”

Her son took a good look and replied, “Gee Mom, she looks a lot prettier in the picture.”

Rose Senehi’s latest thriller, The Wind in the Woods, is available now.

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The Blair truth about publishing: v. 1

I’m turning this blog over to our company president –and our all-around publishing guru– for today. Carolyn is planning to offer insider tips on publishing each month, so this is just the beginning. Enjoy! 

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The keepers of the The Blair Essentials have asked me to offer a regular column on the publishing industry. I thought I might start off by offering a few tips for writing a book proposal.

Since becoming president of Blair in 1992, I have read literally thousands of proposals. We receive 1,000 unsolicited manuscripts annually, and we do look at every one of them. The tips I’m offering here won’t ensure that you get published, but they may help you get a little farther in the process.

  1. Do your homework. Send your proposal only to publishers that publish the kind of book you have written. We once received a proposal for a coffee-table book about levitating Tibetan monks. I am not making this up. If the author had researched what Blair publishes, he would have known that we would consider such a book only if it focused on levitating Tibetan monks who lived in the southeastern United States.
  2. Read the publisher’s manuscript guidelines and follow them. If the publisher accepts proposals submitted only by agents, you are wasting time and postage sending an unsolicited manuscript. With the Internet, you can easily find these guidelines for any publisher, including Blair
  3. Write a killer cover letter. You have one minute to get the reader’s attention, so make it good and concise. Give a brief synopsis of the book—think of it as a 30-second sound bite to convince someone to plunk down $20 for your book. If you have published anything anywhere, mention it.
  4. When you submit samples of your work, send the first couple of chapters. A reader starts the book on the first page, and your success in capturing his attention determines whether he continues to page two. If the first chapter of your book does not do it, maybe it’s time to rework it.
  5. Work as hard on the ending as you do on the beginning. Many times we at Blair have been excited about a novel initially, only to watch it fall apart in the second half. The manuscript often falls apart so completely that we can’t even offer editorial suggestions about how to salvage it.
  6. If you include a marketing plan with your proposal, please offer concrete, realistic suggestions. Sometimes we see proposals for novels that feature attorneys as protagonists that say, “There are X number of lawyers in America, and every one of them will buy this book.” Oh, if it were only that simple.
  7. If you submit an unsolicited manuscript or proposal, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope or an e-mail address if you wish a response. We can’t afford to return every unsolicited manuscript we get.
  8. Learn whether the publisher accepts simultaneous submissions. Blair does, but it’s courteous to tell us that you are sending your query to other publishers. If the publisher does not accept simultaneous submissions—and many don’t—be prepared to wait several weeks before receiving any kind of a response. At Blair, it takes at least eight weeks for a manuscript to go through our reading process.

Now, it’s your turn. If you are an author, maybe you can share some tips you’ve learned. If you have additional questions, send them along. We’ll try to answer them. We ask only that you send general questions, not specifics about your own personal manuscript. Your comments and questions may prompt a discussion topic for a future blog post.

Check out Checking Out and Tim Peeler

We already mentioned that April is national garden month, but did you know it’s national poetry month too? Blair doesn’t publish poetry, but Hub City does, and to celebrate, we thought we’d share a poem with you from one of their publications. It’s Tim Peeler’s Checking Out, a new collection of poems that follows the fortunes of a young motel desk clerk and his fellow employees. Idealistic and less than a year out of college, the young clerk encounters the best and worst of humanity as characters check in and out of the motel.

Pretty neat concept, right? And now on to the good stuff! Here’s my favorite poem in the collection:

What did he see when he
came out here past the town
after the dust settled on the war?
Did he tour the landfill ground,
thinking of a restaurant, a motor court
like the ones he’d seen in Asheville?

He’d made his money in monuments
like Wolfe’s Gant, powerful hands,
a careful chisel; in walking somewhere,
his nephew had described how he
would go faster and faster till he arrived
at a run, even in his seventies.

When the highway widened
and the town marched slowly
toward his motel, restaurant,
his drive-in theater, it was whispered
that he might be a genius, and soon
folks began to name their sons after him.

Tim Peeler is sharing more of his poetry on his blog, so head on over there if you want to read more.

“Music From the Crooked Road” is heading your way

The Crooked Road is a 253-mile stretch of highway that connects the Virginia Piedmont with the Cumberland Mountains in the state’s southwestern corner. It’s Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, an officially designated driving route that leads visitors to some of the best traditional mountain music to be found.

But you won’t have to trek down the southwestern Virginia for a taste of old-time bluegrass and mountain gospel–the show is coming to you!

The National Council for the Traditional Arts is sponsoring a multi-artist traveling road show currently touring the East Coast. The tour, Music From the Crooked Road: Mountain Music of Virginia,  celebrates the living musical culture of the region, which today not only survives, but thrives. The artists performing on this tour link the past, present and future of these deep American traditions and include legendary banjo player and leader of The Lonesome River Band Sammy Shelor, mountain ballad singer Elizabeth LaPrelle, the old-time banjo and fiddle of Kirk Sutphin & Eddie Bond, renowned luthier and flatpicker Wayne Henderson, old time family band The Whitetop Mountain Band, and No Speed Limit. 
Many of the shows have already passed, but you can still catch the last leg of the tour at these spots:

 

But if you can’t attend these shows, you can check out A Guide to the Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail by Joe Wilson. Not only does the book give you historical insight into major stops along the highway, but it’s paired with two CDs of that old-time, bluegrass, Piedmont blues, Anglo-American ballads, and Appalachian gospel music that made the area famous, including songs by some of the musicians on tour. A few minutes of listening to these cds will have you sipping sweet tea on your front porch and imagining the sunset over the Appalachian mountains. Enjoy!

Meet Emily Herring Wilson in the N.C. Triangle

I mentioned in an earlier post that we had a lot in store for one of our new books, Becoming Elizabeth Lawrence: Discovered Letters of a Southern Gardener. Emily Herring Wilson, the editor for this collection of Elizabeth Lawrence’s letters, will be signing books in North Carolina’s Triangle area this week. Catch her at the Regulator Bookshop in Durham on Thursday, April 22, at 7 p.m., or at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh on Friday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m. If you can’t make it there in person, you can also catch her on Tom Kearney’s show on WPTF radio Wednesday, April 21,  at 9:00 p.m.

Emily celebrated the publication of her book last weekend in Winston-Salem, N.C. I went to check it out–and to take some photos. 

Emily Herring Wilson

Emily Herring Wilson, Editor of Becoming Elizabeth Lawrence

Emily Herring Wilson

Emily Herring Wilson reads from her book

Mike and Steve

Two of the Blair team, Mike and Steve, helped out by selling books. They were definitely busy!

And the winner is…

Notice anything different?  (Hint: Look above.) The new blog title is finally here!

Congratulations to CQ Scafidi who submitted “The Blair Essentials” during our blog title contest. He’ll receive a free copy of any book he chooses from our Web site.

Thanks to everyone who participated! Check back often for more chances to win.

Melinda Rainey Thompson and Morgan Murphy give us the inside scoop on their book tour

I Love You--Now Hush

Melinda Rainey Thompson and Morgan Murphy have been tearing up the Southeast on their book tour for I Love You–Now Hush. Before they share their wit and humor at the Alabama Book Festival this weekend, we asked them to fill us in on how it’s been going. Their response is well worth the read:

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The book tour as told by Melinda Rainey Thompson

If you have to take a 3,000-mile road trip with a man you are not married to, I suggest you find someone like my coauthor of I Love You—Now Hush, Morgan Murphy. My dire prediction before we hit the highway was that we’d return as mortal enemies or be bonded for life.

I’m happy to report that I had a hard time returning Morgan to his wife. That man is plenty useful to have around and more fun than shopping with someone else’s credit card.

First of all, he volunteered to drive on our book tour—the whole way. If there is a sweeter word in a Southern woman’s vocabulary than “driver,” I don’t know what that would be.

He drove his big, 20-year-old red Cadillac, which is like being carted to book events and interviews while sprawled on a roomy recliner sofa. I liked that just FINE.

And if your chauffeur also happens to be a former Southern Living travel editor and food critic, well…BIG bonus. Morgan knows where to eat and drink in any city. I know where to shop. Perfect teamwork.

If you can find a tour buddy who will play music to coordinate with the states streaming past your window—Elvis in Memphis and the blues in Mississippi—you’ve got a peach of a writing partner. Morgan even serenaded me with Gilbert and Sullivan selections.  I don’t know another man in the world who would do that.

Men like Morgan are good at making things work out. One day, we needed to kill a little time in Jackson, Mississippi. We thought it would be fun to tour Eudora Welty’s home. Sadly, we arrived just after closing time. I was crushed. But Morgan leaned over and whispered, “Everything is negotiable.” Then he proceeded to charm his way into a private, after-hours tour. The entire time I was leaning out the window of the car, yelling things like, “You can’t go up in there! They’re closed!  Didn’t you see the sign?  You can’t just ask them to…Oh. Okay. Be right there.”

Finally, I can say that it is nice to travel with a big, tall man the size of Morgan. He cuts a wide path in restaurants, television and radio stations, and on city sidewalks.  I get to saunter behind him at my leisure. I like that, too.

I admit that one night in New Orleans when he stepped out of the Caddy to break up a fight in the French Quarter, he scared me to death. I thought he was going to die, right then before we even had our café au lait and beignets, and I was not happy until he got back in the car—unscathed, of course. Those hooligans scattered like roaches.  Morgan is a lot more fearless than I am, but then he’s a Navy man. His instinct is to wade right into the middle of things. My instinct is to run away and hide.

Book tours are a fun gig if you can get them.  Morgan and I have some stories to tell you!

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The book tour as told by Morgan Murphy

When faced with a 3,000-mile cross-country tour, I immediately gassed up the old Cadillac. Why?

I hate to fly. I’m not afraid of the aircraft, mind you. It’s the other passengers who scare me.

Today, travelers wandering about the average airport look as if they’ve just walked the dog or returned from some exhausting sporting event. Or maybe they’re rumpled from having to take off half their clothing going through a scanner and magic wand procedure. Then we’re crammed into small seats, forced to jam our luggage into bins, and told not to smoke our cigars.

It’s altogether miserable.

Which is why I loaded up the geezer Caddy—no distance is too great to drive in avoidance of a flight. Melinda, if she had any reservations about motoring across the country in a fluffy old sloshmobile, graciously looked past my anti-flying idiosyncrasy.

Okay, she looked past a lot of other stuff, too. Like my refusal to eat at a chain restaurant. Or my singing Elvis and Gilbert & Sullivan for 700 miles. And I’ll admit that I secretly tried to dehydrate Melinda so we wouldn’t have to stop for a bathroom break every 30 minutes or so. I know, I know–I’m terrible.

Traveling with Melinda is a delight. Bless her, Melinda didn’t pack a single piece of workout attire. No. She always looked elegant and dignified–right out of a travel ad, that woman. And she remained calm even in the face of adversity. You can’t have a 3,000-mile trip in a 20-year-old car without adversity. Our problem? The gas gauge gave out 20 miles from home. I mistakenly thought the car was getting excellent mileage. That is, until I realized that the needle was stuck at the quarter tank mark. I pounded the dashboard and let fly a few adjectives I picked up in the Navy.

As we waited for AAA, Melinda could have chewed me out or made some understandable complaints about the lack of powder rooms on that particular stretch of roadway. But she didn’t. Instead, she simply patted the Cadillac and said, “That’s a good girl. I just though you were running extra quiet.”

Even better, she then kept my dark secret of running out of gas. That’s a great travel companion. And a true friend.

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If you find yourself in Montgomery, Alabama, this weekend, you can catch half of this hilarious duo at the Alabama Book Festival. Melinda Rainey Thompson will be speaking at this free event at noon on Saturday, April 17.