Sunday, August 25, 2013

Just Rhonda

One of the most rewarding aspects of writing is meeting fans.  Beyond that, the rewards are multiplied when fans become friends.  This painting is a result of one of those friendships.  It depicts Green Bayou so unbelievably well--the whimsy of Connie and Emily's relationship, the beauty of Greenleaf, the sinister feel of the floating camp, the light-hearted feel of an afternoon gathering on the lawn.  Caroline far exceeded any preconceptions I had of what this painting should look like.  So, how did this painting come about? 

I was scheduled for a book signing/meet and greet event at one of the local library branches and Caroline Simoneaux (owner of Studio C) happened to attend.  She was bubbly and enthusiastic--that's my attempt to sound humble when what I actually mean to say is that she was super excited to meet me--and we hit it off instantly.  I struggle with finding the appropriate words to say when strangers approach me as huge fans of the series.  Though it's incredibly flattering, it's awkward because I see myself as "just Rhonda", and I hardly see where visiting with me is worth getting excited about.  But, it happens, and I'm glad it does!!!  I LOVE meeting people.  Anyway, she gave me her business card, which had a sample of her artwork on it, and I was incredibly impressed with her talent.  I asked if she would do a Green Bayou painting for me, she agreed, and it went from there.

Over the course of it all, Caroline and I began to speak more and more often.  We realized that we had a lot in common and that we got along really well.  One of my favorite days came when she called me to tell me that I came up in conversation for something non-book related, and the person she was talking to asked her how she knew me.  She told me that she completely drew a blank.  I was no longer "Rhonda the author" in her mind; I was "just Rhonda."  That made me so incredibly happy! 

Long story short, even if you're the biggest Green Bayou fan the world has ever seen, I'm just Rhonda.  I'm the farthest a person can get from snooty, arrogant, or any of those other politically correct terms for "She's a total bitch."  I couldn't believe when someone messaged me to say that she saw me in a store, but was afraid to say hello.  I'm actually kind of shy by nature, so if you see me, PLEASE come say, "hi."  I love talking about the stories, I love meeting new people, and regardless of whether we meet just that one time or we become life-long friends, I'm the type of person who will treasure the interaction always. 

Sending you lots of Green Bayou love!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mossy Oaks, Shadowlawn, and a Little Ghost Named Charlie

Shadowlawn Plantation
     I'm a total history nerd who also loves hearing, researching, and checking out stories of the paranormal.  Many of the plantations that I've been fortunate enough to tour are reportedly haunted, and some carry stories that will make your goosebumps have goosebumps!  I toured one such house a while back, however the ghost who haunts the place decided to stay quiet during my visit, and that was fine with me!
     Recently, I was able to spend time at Shadowlawn Plantation (906 Main Street, Franklin, LA) two weekends in a row.  The first weekend was spent familiarizing myself with what the place had to offer.  I'm always looking for new locations for photo shoots/ cover shoots.  I met with the very lovely and knowledgeable caretaker, Julana Senette, who gave me some incredibly interesting facts about the place.  Of all the things she mentioned, the one that stood out the most was the story of a little boy named Charlie.  Poor Charlie drowned in the Bayou Teche when he was around ten years old, and he's rumored to have remained ever since.  I enjoyed hearing of Charlie's antics, especially of how he loved people in uniform--so much so that he routinely set off alarms to get them to come visit.  Well, Charlie didn't make his presence known that day, but I thoroughly enjoyed taking in all of the beautiful sights the plantation had to offer.
     The next weekend, I can't say for sure it was Charlie, but I did notice some oddities.  For example, as soon as I walked into the room pictured below, it was as if the atmosphere suddenly changed.  I thought it was just me, but my friend noticed it, as well.  I'd been in that room several times before and never felt a thing, so it was a little eerie to all of a sudden have the change.  Also, lights flickered quite a few times and the alarm chirped (a sign that we were welcome in the house).  Not anything huge, but still interesting, nonetheless.  Julana can't say the same.  She hears Charlie all of the time.  He runs up and down the stairs, jiggles doorknobs, moves things, etc.  Despite the mischief, I believe she enjoys his antics--most of the time.
     If you'd like to experience the majesty and mystery that is Shadowlawn, please be on the lookout for the multitude of events that will soon be taking place there.  There are so many wonderful things in the works!  One of which, I'll be leading--a writer's workshop in November!!!  Shadowlawn is also available for weddings and other events.  If you'd like more information, please call (337)828-2092 or write to St. Mary Chapter Louisiana Landmarks Society, P.O. Box 400, Franklin, LA 70538.
     Enjoy the pics!!!
The Parlor
The Dining Room

The Main Staircase

Beautiful and majestic oak.

The Green Bayou Novels nestled neatly on the third shelf from the top.  They are in a building called The Tavern, which is believed to be one of the first buildings ever erected in Franklin.  It wasn't just a tavern, but a boarding place, as well.  It now functions as a gift shop and gallery for visitors.

The main entrance.

This doll totally creeped me out!

The back stairwell.

A peek up the back stairwell.

Beautiful sitting area.

Massive oak tree dripping with Spanish moss.

Beautiful front porch.

Note:  All photos are courtesy of Caroline Simoneaux.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review Writing 101

So you've just read the most spectacular book EVER and you can't wait to tell the world about it. (Oh, just pulling a random example from mid-air, let's say it's one of The Green Bayou Novels.)  How do you go about doing this?  What if you do something wrong?  What if you don't know where to go to leave your review?  What if no one wants to read your opinion?  Relax!  Review writing can be incredibly simple and believe me, people will read it! 

Leaving a review is the best gift a reader can give an author. (Usually.  There are those pesky one and two stars that are bound to plague even the most talented author.  I'll discuss those later.)  Reviews don't need to be twenty well-versed paragraphs.  Plain and simple, it's just your opinion.  The good thing about opinions--there is no right or wrong.  It's yours and yours alone.  Loved a book that everyone else hated?  Let the world know and be proud of it.  Hate a book that everyone else loves?  Let that be known as well, but be gentle.  There's a human behind every written word and most are more fragile than you would think.  Regardless of whether your review is positive or negative, a good rule to follow is to write the review as if you were telling it to the author's face. (Remember that.  I'll be talking about it more in the negative review section.)

Here are some guidelines for positive reviews:  What initially drew you to the book?  Was the dialogue smooth and engaging?  Did you enjoy/establish a relationship with the characters?  Which character was your favorite?  Which character was your least favorite? Were there issues with editing/formatting/grammar/etc.?  Did you learn anything from the story?  Did the author pull any emotions from you?  What made this book unique?  Did anything in the work stand out to you?  Will you read future work of the author?  Are there other books similar to this work that you enjoyed? (Some readers will take your recommendations if they enjoyed it, as well.)  Some reviewers like to also include information such as the book blurb, a synopsis,  ISBN numbers, character profiles, etc.  Remember that these are just some general guidelines.  You do not have to answer all of the questions.  A very simple, "I really enjoyed this book." will often suffice.

Negative Reviews:  Bleck!  No author EVER enjoys them and in the age of anonymity and keyboard bullies, negative reviews run rampant.  Remember that part when I said to write your review as though you were saying it to the author's face.  This is where that part is most important.  There is nothing wrong with not enjoying a book.  It happens all of the time.  My sister and I often disagree about books.  We went to the same schools, were raised the same way, have similar lives; but very different tastes in movies, books, etc.  That's just life.  If you come across a book that just isn't your thing, here are some guidelines for writing your review.  Don't be that person who tries to get attention by writing the meanest comments.  Don't bash the author's personality, perceived IQ, family, looks, or assumed mental state.  Do clearly state why the said book didn't appeal to you, (i.e. I generally look for books with more action.  I prefer books with more romance.  I prefer more in-depth reads as opposed to quick, fun reads.  I prefer quick, fun reads as opposed to such in-depth reads.)  Do not say things like, I'd rather read the back of a cereal box.  (Yes, I got this as a review.  It's so funny.  Ha! Ha!  Now, how did that help me grow as an author?)  I sincerely doubt that person would have said that if we were face to face.  So why is it acceptable if he/she is hiding behind a computer screen?  Negative comments should be seen as a way to help the author with future projects.  Constructive criticism goes a long way and is much more helpful than a cruel comment.

Where to leave reviews:  Most places that you purchase your book from have the option for you to leave reviews.  Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Goodreads, and Shelfari are a few places you can leave them.  The reviews do not have to have your name, and in cases like Barnes and Noble, all you need is an account to leave a review.  You don't have to actually purchase the book from them to leave your review.  This is good and bad.  Good because let's say you borrowed the book from the library.  You're able to leave your review for people who are interested in purchasing the story.  It's bad because people who haven't even picked up the book get to leave false reviews.  You would think people would have better things to do than to torment authors, but unfortunately, some do not.

So, long story short...  Please leave a review after each book you read because your opinion is important!  Be honest, yet kind.  A long review doesn't equal a good review.  Write your review as though you were standing right in front of the author. 

Remember these simple steps and you'll be well on your way to becoming a master reviewer and the highlight of many authors' day!  Mwah!!