Monday, October 29, 2012

Dignity Trashed

By Deborah Sharp

Before I became an author, I dreamed of all the high-minded things I might do if I ever got published. I pictured myself in a patron's parlor, reading from my book. Maybe I'd teach a class, quoting fiction written by luminaries. I imagined hobnobbing with other authors at those mysterious conferences I'd heard so much about.

I did not foresee me donning a Hefty bag and bridal veil to talk about how the "Mama'' character has hijacked my  Mace Bauer Mysteries. But there I was, prancing around in black plastic last month at the Florida Heritage Book fest. (The photo shows me with readers, playing along in Mama scarves and sunglasses). I'd say a garbage-bag garment makes it hard to maintain dignity, but I think that baby got tossed with the bathwater back when I was promoting Book 2.

Set on a trail ride, MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN lent itself to events such as rodeos. I dutifully attended a few, until I wound up sitting on a scratchy hay bale on the hottest day of the year, right next to the cow chute.  You haven't lived until you've tried to peddle books while sweating puddles into your cowgirl boots, enveloped in an odoriferous cloud of cattle crap and urine. Did I mention the cute little candy giveaways I brought that day? Hershey's kisses, which look astonishingly like miniature cow patties when they melt in 100-degree temperatures at an outdoor rodeo arena.

Hey, whatever it takes, right?

Which brings me to my Hefty bag. Organizers at the Heritage Fest  asked each featured author to come up with a topic for an hour-long presentation. Two things about this freaked me out: My talks, generally linked to the release of a new book, usually top out at 20 minutes, with 10 minutes or so for questions. Longer than that, and I begin to bore myselfSecondly, MAMA SEES STARS (No. 4) came out waaaaay back in the summer of 2011. It felt weird in today's fast-paced information whirl to be yakking solely about a book that seemed soooo yesterday.

So, I had the grand idea of talking about how the mother of the main character in the series has taken over  -- and not just the books, but also the promotion for each book. That way, I could fill an hour with a snippet or two about each title, and have some fun with the construct that the Mama character makes me do outrageous things to spread the word about her ... uh, I mean, MY, books.

Bringing sherbet-colored scarves to signings? Mama's idea, since she believes everyone looks better in sherbet hues. Riding a horse across my state on the week-long Florida Cracker Trail Ride? Mama made me do it, carping in my head about how a real author wouldn't shy away from first-hand research of a setting.  Dressing in tacky bridal veil and serving punch at signings for Book 3? Why not stage make-believe weddings for MAMA GETS HITCHED?  In Book 4,  Mama becomes a diva when a movie crew shoots a film in little Himmarshee, Fla. Said the little voice inside my head:  Diva sunglasses. Feather boa. Wouldn't a red carpet party be a hoot? 

It seemed natural to wind up my book-fest talk with a look ahead to Summer 2013, when Book 5 will come out. The title? MAMA GETS TRASHED. And when I see that picture of me in the garbage bag, I know exactly who to blame.

How about you? Authors, do your characters make you do things you wish they wouldn't? Readers, what wacky thing have you done to promote something or make a point?

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