Summer Mystery Reading Challenge

Book reviewer Liz Clifford has created the 2007 Summer Mystery
Reading Challenge
.

Her goal? To encourage adults to read six mysteries by
authors whose works they haven’t read before between 1 June and 31 August. Each
day during that time, Liz will feature a different novel from among the many
sub-genres in mystery. Readers have the opportunity to win a book from a
drawing each week. They can also discuss the novels with other mystery readers
on Liz’s blog. Plus, anyone who completes the challenge is eligible for a
drawing for an Amazon gift certificate at the end of the summer.

Paper Woman will be featured on Friday 15 June. (Thanks,
Liz!) Visit Liz’s blog, check out the rules, and browse her "Reviews by
Author" column on the right for excellent summer reading ideas. I
look forward to seeing you there!

Midwest Book Review of Paper Woman, May 2007

Christy Tillery French’s review of Paper Woman for the
Midwest Book Review starts its run 1 May. Scroll down a little on the site to find the review, or read it here in full:

Widow Sophie Barton helps her father run his printing press
and tries to stay out of politics in the small town of Alton, GA, which remains
peaceful while redcoats and colonists clash in other parts of the colonies.
Sophie’s father, however, has been acting mysterious and Sophie suspects he has
aligned himself against King George. Although Sophie is being courted by the
major of the British garrison, she isn’t so sure she wants to become his
mistress and move to England with him. When her father’s burned body is
discovered, Sophie is placed under house arrest with orders to decode a secret
message meant for him. She escapes with Mathias, her former lover, and embarks
South, accompanied by her brother and Mathias’s uncle, in hopes of finding the
person who killed her father. Their trip turns into an electrifying journey as they
traverse through Floridian swamps, sail along the Caribbean, and end up in
Havana, Cuba, pursued by the major and his lieutenant, a demented man who
enjoys torturing those who oppose him, as well as two Spanish assassins.

Adair takes her reader on a thrilling adventure with Paper Woman. Packed with action and
breath-taking suspense interwoven around a fascinating time in American
history, with the perfect blend of romance, this is an exhilarating story that
will captivate the reader from beginning to end.

Claudia VanLydegraf also posted a good review of Paper Woman for MyShelf.

Thank you, Christy and Claudia, for the favorable reviews.

Circling the Chairs in Pender County, and the Carolina Conspiracy at Shakespeare & Co.

Between 13 April and 21 April, I’ve driven about a thousand miles
and sold a heap of books. Time for an oil change in the car, and time to cool
my heels awhile. I can sorta imagine how author J.A. Konrath felt last year during his
cross-country, handshaking blitz. Sorta.

In my last blog entry, I reported on my presentation for the
Caswell-Nash chapter of the D.A.R. (13 April) and author panel at Ninety Six’s
Revolutionary War Days event (14 April). On 19 April, I had two engagements
within the Pender County (NC) library system as part of National Library Week:
the first at the Hampstead branch, and the other at the county’s main library
in Burgaw. Many thanks to librarians Marsha
Dees and Nancy Lukens for setting up the events. The events attracted small audiences,
so I went with my instincts: abandoned my prepared presentation, circled the
chairs, and invited attendees ask me questions. They wanted to know about
writing, publishing, reenacting, and where my series is going.

From the enthusiasm expressed by both audiences and the
variety of intelligent questions they posed, it’s clear to me that most people who
come to author appearances really want time to ask authors questions, not to hear authors read from their books. One
reader told me how much more she liked my session than a recent one with
another author because, "All she did was read from her book and answer a
few questions." (Authors, take note.) Not only does "circling the
chairs" provide the opportunity for readers to get to know authors better,
but it gives authors a handle on what their readers enjoy in books. While I
like speaking in front of a big audience, I enjoy the opportunity for that near
one-on-one with readers even more. In the future, I’ll be exploring variations
on the traditional podium author speech so I can find that opportunity to talk
more with readers.

In between those two appearances, I drove to New Hanover
County and popped into Two Sisters Bookery in Wilmington, NC to pick up copies of
Paper Woman that my publisher had left for me. Two Sisters Bookery, a quaint,
independent bookstore, is in the Cotton Exchange in downtown, historic
Wilmington. This was my fourth visit to the historic district, and I enjoy the
lumpy, bumpy streets of old Wilmington every time. Brick streets discourage
driving faster than about 25 mph, but that means you have time to notice how
old the buildings are. Wilmington dates back to the mid-1700s, and dozens
of original buildings and houses have been preserved quite well. The place
oozes history. I look forward to returning over the summer and spending a few
days there while I perform research.

SandcosideShakespeare and Company, another quaint indy bookstore, is
located in Kernersville, NC (between Greensboro and Winston-Salem). Owners Gail
and Wade Behrns have remodeled the upstairs and downstairs of an old house in
the downtown area and placed comfy reading chairs in each room. With plenty of
open space, a pleasant cross-breeze and natural lighting from many open
windows, and espresso and home-baked goodies on-hand, what’s not to like?

Sandcocc01From left to right, Carolina Conspiracy members Suzanne
Adair, Nancy Gotter Gates, Richard Helms, John Staples, Joanne Clarey, and
Lynette Hall Hampton. Lynette started us off with prepared questions before we
answered questions from the audience. Many thanks to Lynette for setting up the
event and also to Wade and Gail for hosting us.

Poe’s Deadly Daughters, the popular group blog of Julia
Buckley, Lonnie Cruse, Sandra Parshall, Sharon Wildwind, and Elizabeth Zelvin,
graciously allowed me to guest-blog on 21 April. Check it out!

Next up: I travel to Clearwater, FL to receive the Patrick
D. Smith award on 24 May from the Florida Historical Society. Huzzah!

The Caswell-Nash Chapter of the DAR, and Revolutionary War Days 2007 at Ninety Six

On Friday 13 April, I received the opportunity to speak
before the Caswell-Nash chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution
(DAR) in Raleigh at the chapter’s monthly luncheon. My topic was how so-called
"non-traditional" women of the eighteenth century and Revolutionary
War weren’t so uncommon after all. As a whole, Georgian-era women weren’t
confined to domesticity like their Victorian sisters but mastered many professions
and trades such as astronomy, blacksmithing, brewing, coach making,
gunsmithing, lighthouse management, mathematics, printing, scouting,
shoemaking, tanning, and upholstery. There’s sagacity behind that bumper
sticker that reads, "Well-behaved women seldom make history," so I
postulated that most members of the Caswell-Nash chapter had
not-so-traditional, not-so-well-behaved female ancestors. Otherwise they
wouldn’t be members of the DAR today. Many thanks to the chapter for its
elegant hospitality. I enjoyed the intelligent questions and audience
discussion. Ladies, are you absolutely certain you don’t want me to bring my
redcoat with his musket and bayonet next time?

Ninety Six, SC figured in altercations between settlers and
Cherokee Indians in the 1750s. During the Revolutionary War, two battles were
fought there. The second battle, in June 1781, unfolded when the forces of
Loyalist commander Lt. Colonel John Harris Cruger were besieged by the forces
of Continental General Nathanael Greene at the star-shaped fort and stockade.
While Greene’s engineers attempted to tunnel to the fort, Cruger received
supplies and communications via trenches. The approach of Lord Francis Rawdon’s
reinforcements sent Greene into retreat. Battling beneath a Carolina summer sun
was no one’s idea of fun, and Lord Rawdon had brought British regulars with
him, not just militia.

As usual, Chief Ranger Eric Williams and the rangers at
Ninety Six National Historic Site put on a great show for the annual
Revolutionary War Days living history event the weekend of 14-15 April.
Although no battle reenactment occurs at this event, visitors witness plenty of
weapons and artillery firings from reenactors. Living history-only events tend
to set a less hectic pace for everyone involved, allowing spectators to meander
and learn more and reenactors to relax. So spectators enjoyed an impersonation
of Lt. Colonel Cruger at the Star Fort, learned about the everyday life skills
of early settlers, listened to performers of period music and theatrics, and
watched artisans at work. There were battlefield tours and activities for
children.

I was one of four women authors to give talks and/or
participate in an author forum. Sheila Ingle (Courageous Kate), Leslie
Sackrison (Awesome Women), and Dr. Christine Swager (White Crows and Black
Cockades
et al.) also participated. Traditionally, the Revolutionary War has
been chronicled by men. When women talk about this war, however, a different
story emerges. In 2000, only Chris Swager was published. Now there are four of
us, and we’re in the forefront of a huge movement to redefine the roles of
women in history. Very exciting! Thanks to the rangers at Ninety Six for the
opportunity to participate in the event.

Next up: author appearances for National Library Week at the
libraries in Hampstead, NC and Burgaw, NC on 19 April; and a booksigning with
the Carolina Conspiracy at Shakespeare and Company 21 April in Kernersville,
NC.

Paper Woman Wins the 2007 Patrick D. Smith Literature Award

I’ve been busy proofing The Blacksmith’s Daughter for
publication this fall. Lo and behold, in my email in-box today, I found a
congratulatory message from the executive director of the Florida Historical
Society
. Paper Woman has won the 2007 Patrick D. Smith Literature Award. What
an honor!

Patrick D. Smith’s novels such as A Land Remembered have
stimulated greater interest in the literature of Florida. The award is open to
authors and presses for a book of fiction on a Florida history topic published
during the calendar year Jan.1-Dec. 31 preceding the award.

This year, the Belleview Biltmore Resort in Clearwater,
Florida hosts the annual meeting of the Florida Historical Society. I will
receive the award at the luncheon on May 24.

By the way, Liz Clifford recently posted a good review of Paper Woman. Click on "Suzanne Adair" in the right column ("Reviews By Author"). She also posted the review to Amazon.com. Thanks, Liz.

The Robeson County Friends of the Library

The Friends of the Library (FoL) serve different library
systems in a variety of capacities. One of the more dynamic groups I’ve
encountered is the Robeson County FoL (Lumberton, NC), where I was privileged
to make an author presentation, followed by a booksigning, Thursday 8 March
2007.

What makes these folks so memorable?

  • The FoL schedules at least one author presentation each
    month in addition to their other events. Most of these authors are non-local.
    The local press is in tune with the events and provides advance coverage of
    guest speakers.
  • The FoL employs a webmaster and computer guru, responsible
    for making all the libraries wifi as well as keeping the web site up to date.
  • All author events except the annual dinner are held at the
    Osterneck Auditorium, a new facility with excellent acoustics.
  • The FoL encompasses the entire county and has a mailing list
    of about 1,500 people who have expressed interest in FoL and library events.
    There are no competitive events among branches. All county library branches
    work together.
  • The FoL holds regular meetings to discuss the needs of each
    library location so money is distributed wisely and equitably among branches.

Starting with the "Dinner With the Author" before
my presentation, I saw how much the Robeson County FoL values each guest
speaker. Such a pleasure to present before them last Thursday night and answer
the many insightful, intelligent questions the audience posed about the
Revolutionary War in the South. I look forward to future opportunities with
them.

LRWA and Researching Historical Fiction

Saturday 17 February in Summerville, SC, I taught a workshop
on researching historical fiction for the Lowcountry chapter of the Romance
Writers of America.  I regret not having the time to tour historic Summerville,
once a woodsy summer escape for plantation owners who wished to avoid malaria.
Nearby are Middleton Place, restored gardens from the eighteenth-century
plantation of one of SC’s signers of the Declaration; and Moncks Corner, where
the forces of General Isaac Huger and Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton clashed in
April 1780. Charleston, which I’ve yet to visit, is less than half an hour
away.  All that history: I need an excuse to return for several days.

Heads up, fans of historical fiction.  Be on the lookout for
ten ladies from the LRWA chapter who have fascinating ideas and a load of
enthusiasm for their historical projects.  Researching historical fiction isn’t
for the faint of heart.  You have to be a detective, think outside the box,
synthesize information from dozens of sources –- and knit it all into a seamless
presentation.  Small wonder that many authors take two years or more to produce
a work of historical fiction.  But each of these ladies, some of them already
published, stepped up to the plate, undaunted.  The
hands-on portion of the workshop was lively with sagacious discussion and
inspiration.  I expect a crop of published historical novels out of this group
within a couple years.

Many thanks, LWRA, for the opportunity to present the
workshop, as well as the opportunity to learn from each of you.

Next up: the Friends of the Library in Lumberton, NC, 8
March.

Historical Novels Review of Paper Woman, February 2007

Paper Woman received three good reviews this week. Mary
Axford and Rhonda Lane published reviews on the Dorothy-L discussion list. And
last night I received a preview of Janette King’s review of Paper Woman in the
Historical Novels Review, a quarterly for the Historical Novel Society. Since
none of these reviews is accessible via an online link, due to space
limitations, I’ll only print Janette King’s review:

Set during the American Revolution, Paper Woman follows
Sophie Barton’s attempts to learn the truth behind the murders of her rebel
father and two other men. But if
running the printing press at her father’s newspaper in Alton, Georgia, isn’t
already an inappropriate occupation for a lady, joining a group of concerned
locals (including a notorious Frenchman, her womanizing brother, her former
lover, and two Indians) on a cross-country journey should earn Sophie quite a
reputation! A clever and resourceful woman,
she quickly proves herself a capable associate. But even with the combined
abilities of her team of friends, there is still much to fear from the redcoats
behind them on the trail.

Suzanne Adair has provided a compelling array of characters,
in particular the roguish adventurer Jacques le Coeuvre. Sophie herself isn’t exactly a
run-of-the-mill heroine, having chocked up quite a past before we meet
her. And she’s soon to be a
grandmother. Before Sophie embarks on
her adventure, a difficult decision concerning her future is put before her.

Adair’s interests in historical re-enactment serve her well
in creating details necessary to bring the period to life. Paper Woman is an entertaining and
well-paced novel, and Sophie Barton proves to be far more substantial than the
title might suggest. I look forward to
the upcoming sequel.

Thank you, Janette, Mary, and Rhonda, for the reviews.

Was my protagonist Sophie’s occupation as a printer
inappropriate for women during the Revolutionary War? Have a look at my blog
entry 14 November 2006, "Busting Myths: Women and Freedom During the Revolutionary War." I’m looking forward to my panel 9 June 2007 at the
Historical Novel Society’s conference in Albany, NY. The panel is entitled,
"Rewriting the Role of Women."

Next up: a workshop on researching historical fiction
for the Lowcountry chapter of the Romance Writers of America in Summerville,
SC, Saturday 17 February 2007.