I’ve been lost in a book for close to three weeks now. Wandering around in the territory of imagination without my GPS. So you’ll have to excuse my absence from this blog. I spent a week down at The Breeze Inn on Tybee, working away on SUMMER RENTAL, bookended by appearances at Hilton Head’s Cooks and Books event and the Jacksonville Library’s Much Ado About Books, followed by another week of writer’s retreat with my writer’s group from North Carolina. It was a fun combination of public events and private torture, er, writing time.
I started off by travelling to Dataw Island, outside Beaufort, SC to speak to a book club luncheon on Friday. That Sunday was the Cooks and Books event on Hilton Head, which is a fund-raiser for Literacy of the Low Country. Got to see writer friends like Patti Callahan Henry, Jackie Cooper and Karen White, and of course, meet lots of friendly fans. Then it was back to work on Tybee. The first week at the beach, I plunged headfirst back into the book. I have to set goals for myself to keep my momentum, and I’d promised myself that I would have 200 manuscript pages by the time “the girls” arrived. And I also wanted to be able to send those pages off to my new editor for her feedback. It’s been an unusually chilly gray winter this year, which was good news, as I was not tempted to do much other than burrow in and write. My husband kept calling and asking if I’d gone for a bike ride, or at least a stroll on the beach. I did take one 30-minute beach walk, and another couple brief bike rides, but for the most part, it was a productive work week. Although, yeah, I did get burnt out on writing one day. Told myself I was going “off-island” to get dinner at Publix, somehow ended up driving into Savannah and making stops at World Plus Market–where I spent an hour cruising the aisles for shiny happy cheap stuff. Then I decided it was vitally important to world peace that I replace the mattresses in Boomerang Boy’s beach bedroom. Somehow, I managed to spend more time choosing which flavor Italian soda to buy at World Plus than I did at the mattress store. Finally, $900 later, I made it to Publix to buy my rotisserie chicken.
My only walk on the beach at Tybee–but a beautiful one
Then it was off to Jacksonville, where I gave the keynote luncheon talk at the Jacksonville Library’s Much Ado About Books festival. Such a fun event! I had all day Friday to wander around Jacksonville, and those smarty-pants library folks even provided me with a junk itinerary which sent me to the Avonlea Antique Mall, where I picked up a trio of cool old black and white beach snapshots to add to my collection, and then to Five Points, where I browsed Five Points Antiques and Fans and Stoves, both great little antique shops. At Five Points Antiques I scored a pair of retro vintage concrete seahorse placques just like the ones I’d been jonesing for these since seeing a story in House Beautiful last year.
Friday night was the Much Ado About Books gala, which featured a theme of Lights Over London. The event organizers managed to turn the library’s rotunda and courtyard into a London fantasy, featuring Union Jacks, bobby hats, and even a huge Tower of London. My date for the night was Ward Lariscy, a Savannah native who happens to be one of Jacksonville’s most talented interior designers. I teased him about being my “arm candy” but it was a match made in heaven as we gossiped about antiques and Savannah and such. I even got to make my curtsey to “Queen Elizabeth,” who was, in reality Jacksonville arts champion Betsy Lovett. After a quick turn on the dance floor–told you those Jax folks know how to party–it was off to a dinner with a bevy of New York Times bestselling authors, lead by Steve and Liz Berry, and including my new friends Andrew Gross, Chris Bohjalian and Michael Palmer. They even taught me the NYT bestseller secret handshake.
On the way back to Tybee Saturday night, I took a quick detour to St. Simon’s Island to catch up with old friend Laura Lippman and family. Laura had just turned in her next NYT-bestseller, and she and husband, television writer/producer David Simon have been living in New Orleans while filming David’s new HBO series TREME, which premieres April 19. Laura’s LIFE SENTENCES just came out in paperback last week, so you should rush out and buy dozens of copies.