#WritingRambles #amwriting – Writing “What You Know?”

Good Morning, Folks!

It’s a lovely, sunny Sunday in central Florida, after a drizzly, gray Saturday. Happily, yesterday’s weather didn’t stop anyone from attending my talk on Owls at the gorgeous DeBary Hall Historic Mansion.

In fact, we had four extras show up, but had plenty of open space at the back of the room to accommodate them at a safe distance from everyone else. And as you can see from this week’s header image above, I’m still in an owlish kinda mood. (This is a barred owl, btw, my favorite of all.) And talking about these wonderful birds yesterday, gave me the idea for this post today. 

We’re often encouraged or advised to “write what we know,” and in general, I tend to do that, as all of my books are set in the southern part of the United States (just as *I* am), and feature the kinds of people I’ve known all my life. (Except for the serial killer in Swamp Ghosts. I confess, I’ve known some unpleasant folks over the years, but none that I know of have ever gone so far as to kill people and feed ’em to the local alligators! 😉 )

But, in general, I do write people I understand and who speak in a manner I’m familiar with. I also go a step farther by including habitats and wildlife I’m familiar with, too. I like to set up a scene so that readers will feel like they’re “there” along with the characters. For me, this can include describing a canoe trip on the St. John’s river, or a walk through a Florida wetlands area, or a slippery climb down a rock face beside a North Carolina waterfall. I think many of us do this when setting up a scene, and if done well, I believe (hope!) it makes it all more real to readers. But I want to take it a step farther today.

Here’s my question for you: do you ever include things from your real life that only your friends or family would likely recognize? Maybe as a private joke, or maybe simply because whatever it is happens to fit well with what you’re writing? I do, even though I don’t set out with that in mind. It’s just that as I’m typing along, I think of a familiar item or happening, or even a line of dialogue, that is part of my life in one way or another, and find myself including it.

For example, in Swamp Ghosts, one of my secondary (but pretty important) characters is Lester Purvis who drives an ancient, primer red and gray, 1967 VW bus. I’m very familiar with this bus, as is everyone who knows Mark and I, because it’s parked in our garage. My husband has had it since the early 80s, and, like Lester, has always planned to restore it to its former glory. (He drives it for short errands on the weekends, and can’t stop at a traffic light without someone pulling up beside it and yelling out to ask if it’s for sale.) You would be staggered to know how much he’s been offered for it, even with all the body work it needs. Apparently, being the last year they made VWs with the split windshield gives it some serious collectability. 


(Taken many years ago. Nothing much has changed.)

The VW is one of the more obvious personal tidbits I’ve tucked into my books, just for fun, but I find myself drawing on small events and funny moments from my own life fairly often. I’ve also mentioned a real person now and then, like my friend Bev who owns the DeBary Nursery, where my character Willow Greene likes to buy plants for her herb garden. Heck, even the barred owl that greets Sarah on her arrival at Wake-Robin Ridge is taken from my life. Everything is fair game, I figure, as long as it doesn’t violate anyone’s privacy, and it actually fits into the moment I’m writing about. (Bev was thrilled, btw. She sells my books at her shop and one of her customers who’d bought a copy of Finding Hunter from her returned to get Bev’s autograph after reading the scene! 😀 )

So, your turn now. Have you ever included something of this nature in your own books? Maybe as a little nod to a friend or family member? Or just to make yourself smile as you’re writing? Tell us about it in the comments below, since, as always, inquiring minds wanna know. Especially if you’ve ever included any private jokes or situations that only some would recognize. 

Thanks! And have a beautiful, peaceful, productive day! 🙂

#2020EventSchedule #BuildingALocalReadership #CentralFloridasFabulousWildlife #SpringTea

My favorite part of marketing is building a local readership. I’ve shared things about this many times, so many (most?) of you know this. I have this year’s dates scheduled, and know what I’ll be doing for January and February, though the rest are still To Be Announced. (Gotta see how many new slide shows I can put together, and which of my older programs have received requests for “reruns.”) But for those of you in this area, here is what I have so far. (NOTE: If you are a regular attendee, mark your calendars for the following dates, and stay tuned as I figure out which programs are going where.)

2020 Event Schedule

January

  • January 11Enterprise Museum – #CFFW – “Alligators & Crocodiles” 1:00 – 3:00pm FREE, no reservations required (Donations to museum gratefully accepted)
  • January 25Enterprise Museum – Book Release Open House – 1:00-4:00pm, Book reading at 2:00pm, hourly drawings for free signed books, FREE, no reservations required (Donations to museum always gratefully accepted!)

February

  • February 8Enterprise Museum #CFFW slide presentation “Furry Critters Part 2” 1:00-3:00, FREE, no reservations required (Donations to museum happily accepted)
  • February 22DeBary Hall – Springtime Tea – 11:00am, includes lunch and custom teas, reading, and book signing afterward. Call for reservations and price.

March

  • March 7 – Enterprise Museum – TBA
  • March 28 – Enterprise Museum – TBA

April

  • April 11 – DeBary Hall – TBA
  • April 18- Enterprise Museum – TBA

May

  • May 2 – Enterprise Museum – TBA
  • May 9 – DeBary Hall – TBA
  • May 23 – Enterprise Museum – TBA

June

  • June 6 – Enterprise Museum – TBA
  • June 13 – DeBary Hall – TBA
  • June 27 – Enterprise Museum – TBA

July:

  • July 11 – DeBary Hall – TBA
  • July 25 – Enterprise Museum – TBA

August:

  • August 8 – DeBary Hall – TBA
  • August 15 – Enterprise Museum – TBA
  • August 29 – Enterprise Museum – TBA

September:

  • September 12 – Enterprise Museum – TBA
  • September 26 – Enterprise Museum – Autumn Tea – 11:00am,  includes lunch and custom teas, reading, and book signing afterward. Call for reservations and price.

And here are the flyers I have so far:

January 11 – Enterprise Museum:

January 25 – Enterprise Museum

February 8 – Enterprise Museum

So happy to be getting 2020 underway with such fun programs, and a Release Party, of all things! My first, and I’m super excited about it! Hope to see many of you there, and at some of the other programs I’ll be presenting through the year! Happy New Year, folks, and may 2020 be our best year yet! 

#BuildingALocalReadership – And Having Fun Doing So!

I’ve said it before and I’ll no doubt say it again, my favorite part of marketing is getting out to spend time with folks face to face. I love making new friends and seeing old ones, and for me, that means doing several presentations a month on various topics, with a signing table set up for afterward. 

I’ve spoken on all sorts of things, from writing-related themes to anything at all to do with Florida’s wildlife and natural places, always a favorite subject of mine. The point is, find something you enjoy and maybe have a bit more knowledge about than the average person, then–SHARE it! Over the past year, my talks have been focused on Central Florida’s Fabulous Wildlife, and they’ve been very well-received, happily. I love doing them, especially if I can provide some laughs along with the information I pass along, and I hope to continue doing at least 2 a month for another year or two, at least.

What are you interested in that would appeal to local audiences? Don’t forget, you can research your favorite topics online for extra information and statistics, and putting together a PowerPoint presentation is pretty easy, too. Think about it, and I’ll bet you can come up with a topic that would draw an audience. Then check your local venues for speaking opportunities. I visit with private book clubs, too, but my main focus is on the really special Enterprise Museum, and a local historic site, DeBary Hall. Both venues have wonderful staff to work with and treat me like a honored guest every time I visit with them. I love all of  them, too!

Let me know if you’ve tried anything similar, or are thinking about doing so. It’s fun. It’s FREE (and in some cases, you can charge a speaker’s fee, though I don’t), and you’ll be surprised at the folks who come to hear about local birds and leave with a book in their hands–hopefully to become a regular reader of your work.

Today, I’m off to DeBary Hall to do Part 2 of my Backyard Birds program, offering tips on how to identify the birds who pass through our yards less frequently, for various reasons. (And we have some stunning ones!) I can’t wait to get there! It’s FUN, I tell ya!

Try it. You’ll LIKE it!

My Schedule for the Rest of This Year

For you guys in this area, I still have four more presentations to give at my two public venues, Enterprise Museum and DeBary Hall. Here’s the schedule in case some of you would like to attend. (I highly encourage it. I hear these programs are GREAT. 😀 😀 😀 )

Enterprise Museum: Sat, 8/3, 1:00-3:00, FREE, No Reservations Required
“For Goodness Snakes!”

Enterprise Museum: Sat, 8/24, 1:00-3:00, FREE, No Reservations Required
“Wood Storks and Sandhill Cranes”

DeBary Hall: Sat, August 10, 1:00pm-3:00pm, FREE, No Reservation Required
“Backyard Birds Pt. 2 – The Tricky Guys”

DeBary Hall: Sat, Sept 14, 1:00pm-3:00pm, FREE, No Reservations Required
“Backyard Birds Pt 3 – Attracting Birds to Your Backyard”

I will also be doing an Autumn Tea at Enterprise Museum on September 28, at 11:00am. Cost $15, to include a yummy luncheon, my custom teas, and ME.  😀 I’ll do a reading from one of my books, take some Q&A and have a great time visiting with everyone. These are so much fun! I hope some of you will try to come. Reservations are required for sure, so they’ll have plenty of tea sandwiches and desserts for you all. 🙂 

Enterprise Museum: 60 Main St, Enterprise, FL 32725, (386) 259-5900
DeBary Hall: 198 Sunrise Blvd, DeBary, FL 32713 (386) 668-3840

My Updated Schedule of Events Through September

For those of you in the area who might like to attend some of these talks and events, here are the updated dates and topics. Had to adjust a few, due to unavoidable circumstances, but I’m still hoping to see a few of you at some of them.

NOTE: All talks are from 1:00 to 3:00pm and are FREE, no reservations required. The only exception is the Autumn Tea & Luncheon, which starts at 11:00, is $15, and for which reservations are necessary. For any other information, feel free to email me, or call DeBary Hall, 386-668-3840 or Enterprise Museum 386-259-5900.

SCHEDULE:

July 13: Backyard Birds #1 “The Usual Suspects” – DeBary Hall
July 20: Furry Critters #1 “Those Squirrely Guys” – Enterprise Museum

August 3: Florida’s Fabulous Wildlife: “For Goodness Snakes”- Enterprise Museum
August 10: Backyard Birds #2 “The Tricky Guys” DeBary Hall
August 24: Furry Critters #2 – “Raccoons & Other Raiders” – Enterprise Museum

September 14: Backyard Birds #3 – “Attracting Birds to Your Yard” – DeBary Hall
September 28: Autumn Tea & ChitChat – 11:00am – $15.00 (includes luncheon)  -Enterprise Museum RESERVATIONS REQUIRED

#Events #DeBaryHall Springtime Tea & Catered Luncheon

Hope those of you in the central Florida area will join us on Saturday, February 9, at 11:00am for our first Tea & Catered Lunch of the year. DeBary Historic Manor is a beautiful site, simply perfect for tea in the parlor. Your reservation will include a yummy catered luncheon with an array of my custom blended teas (including Sarah’s Favorite Earl Grey, Gunnar’s Assam Blend, and my favorite, Willow’s Potpourri Garden, among others.)

Also included, a reading , a Question and Answer Session, and a signed copy of one of my books, your choice. Plus–as if all of that isn’t enough–lots and lots of fun and laughter among friends new and old.

Would love to see your smiling face at one of the parlor tables! (NOTE: Reservations are limited and filling up quickly. Call today and reserve your place.)

DeBary Hall
198 Sunrise Blvd
DeBary, FL 32713
386-668-3840

Last Call! Afternoon Tea at DeBary Hall

“Earl Grey, hot.” You know you want it! So don’t wait any longer to make your reservations for the Afternoon Luncheon and Tea at DeBary Hall on Saturday, 3/10/18, at 11:00. Reservations MUST be in by this Friday, 3/2/18. The cost is $25, and includes a delicious catered lunch, unlimited cups of custom-blended teas, a reading from one of my books, a Q&A session, and a signed copy of one of my novels (your choice).

Such a deal, eh? And all of the fun takes place at DeBary Hall Historic Site. Don’t miss out! Call today, as seating is limited: (386)668-3840

Looking forward to seeing your smiling face over a cup of Sarah’s Favorite Earl Grey, Rabbit’s Hazelnut Chocolate, or one of 8 other custom blended teas!

#CFFW – #DeBaryHall Wildlife Presentation

If you are in the area this coming Saturday, 2/10/18, I will be at DeBary Hall, presenting the first of my series, “Central Florida’s Fabulous Wildlife,” featuring the area’s most famous–or infamous–animal, the American Alligator. The presentation starts at 1:00pm. I have lots of information and a ton of great slides to share with you. Join us for what I hope will be the first of many entertaining, interesting, and informative wildlife talks. And there will be plenty of time for Questions and Answers, too.

The event is FREE, no reservation required. All you have to do is show up prepared to enjoy yourself. 🙂

Hope to see YOUR smiling face in the audience!

DeBary Hall, 198 Sunrise Blvd, DeBary, FL 32713, (386) 668-3840

 

 

Last Chance to Register! #TeaWithTheAuthor at #DeBaryHall

Hope those of you who live in area will consider joining me for this always-fun event! If you want to come, you must reserve your seat as soon as possible, no later than Monday morning, 12/4.

Here’s the scoop!

Recap: The $25 charge includes catered lunch, my custom-blended teas (named for characters in my books), a reading and Q&A session, and a signed copy (your choice) of one of my books.

Reservations should be made as soon as possible (no later than Monday morning), so we know how many lunches to order. Call Tracy at 386-668-3840 or email at tmestre@volusia.org and reserve your place today!

Can’t wait to see you then!

#SwampGhosts Presentation at DeBary Hall 5/20/17


“Big Blue”
Opening Slide from My Swamp Ghosts Presentation

On May 20, 2017, I’ll be doing my favorite presentation at DeBary Hall Historic Site, and if you are in the area, I’d love to see you there. This talk features many beautiful photographs of the St. Johns River basin habitat, including birds and wildlife of the area. There is also a brief introduction to albino and leucistic alligators, and a section on the easiest way to ID the very few snakes in our area that you do not want to handle. The last section covers a bit on how I write, my inspiration board photos, and the challenges of starting a brand new career at a time when most are thinking about retirement.

I always include plenty of time for Questions & Answers during and after the presentation, and I can pretty much guarantee that there will be a whole lotta laughin’ going’ on! 🙂 This is a fun event, and if you can possibly come, please do! Meeting new readers is my favorite thing in the world, next to writing books for them. Here’s the pertinent information for those who’d like  to  attend:

Location: DeBary Hall Historic Site, 198 Sunrise Blvd, DeBary, FL 32713
(386) 668-3840
Time: 2:00 PM, Saturday, May 20, 2017
Cost: FREE, No Reservations Required

COME HAVE A FUN AFTERNOON LEARNING MORE ABOUT WHAT MAKES FLORIDA GREAT!