Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Going Home to Grayson

Saturday I went back to my hometown to do a book signing at the Grayson Branch of  the Carter County Public Library. Having a public library in town is a fantastic accomplishment. There were people who tried to get one established when I was a child, but their efforts failed every time it went to a vote. Yes, I  grew up  in a town that didn't have a library or bookstore and became a writer anyway. What few books there were in town were either at the five and dime or in one of the carousels in the grocery store.

The  trouble was I needed stories. I still do, but now there are an unlimited number available.

The selection of books was in Grayson, Kentucky was greatly limited. I quickly exhausted those suitable for a child, and then sneaked a few unsuitable ones. Reading a book or two that the adults didn't want me to read was naughty but not really interesting. I got tired of that game and started making up my own stories.

It was a strange experience to go home to Grayson with a box full of copies of my first novel. There were times last week when I wasn't sure I was going to make it.

I had a meltdown earlier in the week just thinking about all the things that could have gone wrong. Friday night I couldn't sleep. By Saturday morning my worry spread to my spouse who actually turned on to the wrong road leaving Lexington. We had gone about five miles before I realized we were headed west instead of east.

We did find the library, thanks to my son-in-law who found us driving in circles and led the way to the correct location. We did make it to the library, on time.We did have a nice visit with family, meet some great new people, and sell a few books. Best of all, we contributed the profits from book sales to the library for the purchase of new books. I have also donated an autographed copy of CIRCLE OF DISHONOR to the Carter County Library. Perhaps, there is another budding writer somewhere in Carter County who will discover it there and find a little inspiration in knowing someone else from their hometown managed to get published. It could happen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Guest Blogging at BEWARE THE VAMPIRE BUNNY

Today I am making another stop on my blog tour. I am guesting on Emma Kathryn's blog, Beware the Vampire Bunny, about murder and mayhem in 19th Century Kentucky. Please stop by and let me know what you think.

http://bewarethevampirebunnies.blogspot.com/2010/08/guest-blog-gwen-mayo.html

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Furnishing the Mind

This week I haven't done much work on my novel in progress, but I've been quite busy with what Gurney Norman used to call "furnishing the mind." If you are not familiar with Gurney Norman, he is a Kentucky native and author who has served as one of Kentucky's poet laureates. He was also one of my creative writing professors when I attended the University of Kentucky.

I have never forgotten his lesson on the necessity of furnishing my mind with the materials needed to create a story. Writers must read. Of all the things I have learned about writing, this sticks with me because I find reading broadly essential to the writing process. I can't just read other novels, though I am enjoying Blaize Clement's CAT SITTER ON A HOT TIN ROOF. I can't stick to history, but I have spent several hours with Randolph Hollingsworth's LEXINGTON QUEEN OF THE BLUEGRASS. Along with these, I have thumbed through some reference works and read half a dozen blogs. Today I picked up a copy of a book on American railroads that should prove useful in crafting the chapter I'm currently working on for CONCEALED IN ASH.

No, I haven't made a lot of progress with my novel. What I have done is seed my mind with the kind of detail that will add depth to what I write next. I have also taken the time to listen to the voice of a fellow mystery author making the Florida coast come alive in my mind. It was time well spent.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rediscovering Nineteenth Century Kentucky Artist, Thomas J. Scott

This weekend I visited the opening of THE HORSE IN DECORATIVE AND FINE ART at the Headley-Whitney Museum. It was an interesting and well attended opening. If you haven't visited the exhibit I would highly recommend doing so before it closes on December 23rd.

My interest in the exhibit was sparked by the fact that a friend of mine was heavily involved in the research on Thomas J. Scott that lead to this nineteenth century Kentucky artist reemerging into the art scene. Scott would have been a contemporary of my detective, so I was very pleased to be given copies of some of the historical information about him. Who knows? One day he may show up in one of my stores. However, this post is the story of how a local artist came back into the spotlight in Lexington.

Some years ago, a friend and co-worker of mine, Carolyn Burnette, discovered an old painting discarded for trash pickup. The painting had suffered years of neglect, but she thought it was interesting and began looking into getting it professionally cleaned. Her painting turned out to be an original 1882 Thomas J. Scott painting titled Miss Russell and Foal.

Carolyn's interest in getting the painting cleaned took her to the Henry Clay estate, where a similar painting was discovered. That discovery led to her husband Gordon developing an interest in Thomas Scott which turned into countless hours of research into the artist and his work. Gordon now owns a second Scott painting and has built a website ( www.thomasjscott.com ) where his research into the artist's works is documented.

Those of us who love Kentucky history owe Gordon Burnett a debt of thanks for taking on the monumental task of bringing this piece of our past to light. Thanks, Gordon.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nineteenth Century Sporting Houses - What's in a Name?

At various points in Circle of Dishonor, Jenny Hill's house is referred to as a brothel, a bawdyhouse, a house of ill repute, a whore house, and a sporting house. Of the names, "sporting house" was probably the one considered most polite, but not entirely acceptable. No gentleman would talk about his visits to the local madam in front of a lady. However,the term "sporting house" was so commonly used that during Louisville's Civil War reunion pamphlet titled "A Sporting Guide to Louisville" was published, listing all the brothel's in the city and detailing services provided as well as prices.

Lexington was a smaller city, but had more than its fair share of brothels. There were also a number of women living at the edge of acceptable society who slipped in and out of prostitution. Often, on the official arrest records these women listed their occupation as seamstress. Belle Brezing's mother, Mary Belle Cox, was one of these part time prostitutes until she met and married saloon keeper George Brezing.

Belle, on the other hand, didn't care much for the euphemisms of the day. When hauled before the judge she proclaimed her occupation as "prostitute." A joking judge asked "How's business?" to which she announced it was "plumb awful on account of having to compete with all these seamstresses."

By whatever name we call it, the late nineteenth century in Kentucky was a rough and rowdy time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Some Pics from the Launch Party

The launch party at Natasha's went swimmingly. Check out the pictures below!

Gwen busy signing copies of Circle of Dishonor
The party crowd swells!
Gwen reads an excerpt from Circle of Dishonor
Unfortunately, Gwen's boss was unable to attend and hear the exploits of his namesake in the novel. Gwen mentioned him before beginning the reading.

Some happy customers

The pile of books shrank rapidly!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Launch Party Tonight

I'm sorry that I've been neglecting my blog this week. Keeping it up to date is important to me, but with the launch party tonight I have been way to busy with preparations to get much of anything else done. It is already looking like it is going to be a great party.

Tonight it is time for thanking friends and family that have stuck with me through all of work. Getting the book to press has been a long, bumpy ride. There were times when the rejections were heartbreaking. In retrospect the last rejection was probably the best thing that happened with the book.

The last month of that ride was like a runaway train. Pill Hill Press works quickly and produces a quality product. I am very happy with how the book looks. The cover art is great, though not perfect. It would have been cool to have the ladies of the evening look a little more period, particularly the hairstyles. That is not a complaint, simply the opinion of a major history buff. I'm going to be very proud to present the book this evening.

Stay tuned to see how it goes. Tomorrow I'll be posting a few pictures of the event.