Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Countdown Continues!

Keowee Valley will be released in two days!

My husband asked me yesterday, “So what really happens on Thursday?” As if something magical were going to take place.

“Nothing,” I told him. “It just means that the book is available in bookstores and online, or bookstores can order it for customers if they don’t happen to have it in stock.”

And, really, this is all that happens on my official publication date. Press releases do go out, and my publishers at Bell Bridge Books do a bunch of behind-the-scenes marketing, sending the book out to libraries, review sites, and more. Keowee Valley will be featured on the front page of the BelleBooks/ Bell Bridge Books web site, and of course available for purchase through them, too.

Even though there won’t be any bells and whistles, the whole thing truly is magic. Mixed, of course, with a helluva lot of hard work and quite a bit of luck.

At my house, we plan to celebrate with dessert from one of the many wonderful restaurants in our little town, and some champagne.

* * *

In other news … (pretend I sound like Tom Brokaw) ...
I returned on Saturday night from the Southern Women Writers Conference at Berry College, where I presented a paper (an excerpt from Keowee Valley). It was a great conference, populated by absolutely fabulous writers, including the other presenters in my session who read from short stories and novels-in-progress. Whenever I attend conferences like these, I’m always astounded at the quality of writing going on out there in the world.

Some incredible writers on the scene for a while: the singer-songwriter-actress Marshall Chapman, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson, poet Barbara Hamby, and South Carolina’s own Josephine Humphreys.

Some new (to me, but certainly not the writing world) faces: Iranian-American author-lawyer-activist-blogger Melody Moezzi, essayist Melissa Delbridge, and Episcopal priest and author Barbara Brown Taylor. All were simply stunning. And what a delight it was to sit over meals, especially, to talk with other attendees and writers and to listen to these funny, brave, incredibly talented Southern women talk about the writing life.

I had to leave earlier than I would’ve liked to get home on Saturday (the conference was Thursday – Sunday), but it was well worth the 4.5 hour drive through the mountains of Western North Carolina and North Georgia.

I chose the route, in fact, because the first half of it traced the journey my characters Quinn and Jack took, in Keowee Valley, when they traveled through the Cherokee wilderness to meet Jack’s family, in Chota (the spiritual capitol of the Cherokee Nation at the time).

Once I got over being in the car alone, and without my dog, Scout—who’s been my travel buddy for the past nine years—I set my playlist to begin with a little Sam Phillips (from the album “A Boot and Shoe. For a taste, listen here). I headed off down NC Hwy 64, heading west. Followed the incredibly gorgeous Cullasaja River--which moves between Highlands and Franklin, N.C.--craning my neck to look down into the gorge as I wound slowly up the two-lane mountain road, wondering if the roof of my Honda Element would scrape the rock outcroppings overhead.

Keowee Valley Spoiler Alert!

The Cullasaja is a special river for me: Nearby, in my fictional world, is where Jack proposes to Quinn, back at the deep of a cave, behind a roaring waterfall. Truth be told, it’s where and how I imagine the modern Bridal Veil Falls—which on my drive I saw plenty of bikers and motorists parked, taking photos and walking beneath it. I can only imagine the Falls in the 18th century, no road, only a footpath or game trail, rushing through the glossy undergrowth.

(Alert over.)

After following the Cullasaja River for quite some time, up through the Nantahala National Forest, I meandered along past the Little Tennessee River, through towns like Young Harris, Blue Ridge and Ellijay, and then into North Georgia and the gorgeous Chattahoochee National Forest. It was a jaw-droppingly beautiful day—with a crystalline blue sky free of clouds and humidity, just hinting at the glories of October. And it was fun for me, to take that journey again, to remember when I was just dreaming up my novel.

Have I mentioned that Keowee Valley will be released in TWO DAYS?

Just checking.


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