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In support of independent book stores, this video was produced by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. Please check it out!  http://www.youtube.com/embed/FzRKd2y1nXY?rel=0

Why I set Catherine’s Cross in Beaufort, South Carolina

  1. The Beaufort, South Carolina area is perfect for the plot of Catherine’s Cross. Beaufort was founded in 1711. Over the centuries, a number of taverns were located along the waterways in Beaufort County, especially the Beaufort River and the Morgan River. Beer and wine bottles were thrown into the rivers after consumption. I have been visiting Beaufort for about twenty years and have seen these ancient bottles for sale in antique stores after they were recovered by divers. In my novel, Jenks’s identical twin sister dies while diving for artifacts in the Beaufort River. Bottles weren’t the only things she found.

 

Civil War Period: In the fall of 1861, the Federal Navy invaded Beaufort, Port Royal, and Hilton Head setting up a naval base that would be maintained throughout the war. Catherine’s Cross is a fictitious gold crucifix that was from the collection of Catherine the Great. A wealthy plantation owner, Luke Elliott, purchased it for his daughter, Iris, on a tour of Europe prior to the war. Early in the Federal occupation, the cross and other valuables were stolen from the Elliott plantation home by Union soldiers. According to legend, a ship bound for a northern destination sank near St. Helena sound with the cross on board—going to rest at the bottom of the sea—until, it was recovered.

 

Also, there are descendants of Gullah people (descendants of African slaves) who play an important role in my novel, spiritual advisor Meta Jane Andrews and her sister, Ida Mae. Meta Jane and Ida Mae are in possession of old diaries written by their ancestor, a slave, Joseph Andrews. These diaries document the Civil War period in Beaufort and include a valuable reference to the lost cross of Iris Elliott: Catherine’s cross.  Another figure, the old fisherman, Mose Lafitte, represents purity and honesty. The Gullah culture is unique to the Sea Islands of South Carolina, and Georgia. For many years, the Gullah people were isolated from the outside world, but due to development on these islands, their culture is changing.  Check out this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gullah

Something You’d Never Guess About Me!

I’ll go back to the earliest thing that I believe influenced my thinking. (For Life) Would you believe that it was a Hanna-Barbera cartoon? When I was about five years old, an action/ adventure series came on television. I think it was 1965. The name of the show was The Adventures of Jonny Quest.

In the series, Jonny and his friend Hadji, travel with his father, Dr. Benton Quest to far away countries for scientific adventures. Dr. Quest sometimes works for the United States Secret Service, and has a body guard by the name of Race Bannon. I experienced my first crush at age five on Race Bannon.

As I grew older, I found that I had a love for travel and exploring rural areas. I think this is exhibited by the locations I write about in my novels (So far, I have visited the places that I have written about.)

There was also my infatuation with Race’s piloting skills. In my early twenties, I became a commercial and instrument rated pilot, eventually earning the Airline Transport Pilot Rating while I was a captain at Sunbird Airlines. My last full time flying job was with United Parcel Service. After my daughter, Whitney, was born, I stopped flying full time and went into real estate.

Advice for authors: The power of the bookmark!

For sixteen years, I worked in the real estate business; eight of those years I ran my own company, Portfolio Real Estate. I specialized in properties on Lake Murray which has over six hundred miles of shoreline and is located northwest of Columbia, SC. During my real estate days, I learned that promotional items are key to maintaining a successful business. I developed a buyers’ guide to Lake Murray called the Lake Murray Portfolio, where I previewed and photographed lake houses that were for sale. I advertised in my local newspaper, and with the help of an advertising company, created a brochure about my business that was distinctive, memorable, and brought me sales. I took these lessons learned from real estate into my business as an author.

When I do a book signing, I am armed with several hundred bookmarks that were designed by the talented man, Robin Krauss, who creates the book covers for my publishing house, Boutique of Quality Books, Atlanta, Georgia. The book marks are eye catching and provide information to help customers learn about, and purchase my novels, The Cast Net and Catherine’s Cross. I have found that people who take a bookmark from me sometimes later purchase my books, or download them in an ebook format.

Another important rule to having a successful book promotion is to schedule your signing alongside a community event that will bring foot traffic in front of your table. This past Memorial Day weekend, I signed copies of my novels at McIntosh Book Shoppe, on Bay Street in downtown Beaufort, South Carolina. Since both of my novels are set in the Low Country of South Carolina, a couple of weeks before the book signing, I made a tour of the Low Country of South Carolina visiting newspapers and book stores along the coast. I visited over fifteen venues, but heard back from one very important news source, The Hilton Head Island Packet. A reporter for this newspaper called and interviewed me about my novels and wrote about them preceding the scheduled book signing. His article was outstanding. Not only did I benefit from the foot traffic that was in Beaufort for the Saturday before Memorial Day, but I had customers who had read the article and came especially to purchase my novels. I had a wonderful signing event and sold thirty copies of my novels. This broke my old record of twenty-six books that I sold last summer during an annual celebration that takes place in Beaufort.

I would like to say more in regards to giving away bookmarks. It is a nonthreatening way of introducing yourself to passersby. As people go by my signing table, I ask them if they’d like a bookmark. Usually, the answer is yes. When a person comes forward to receive the bookmark, I tell them that I’m signing my novels, and I give a brief synopsis of the stories. I find that this works in a positive fashion, and then I close on the sale. I don’t sell everyone a book, but I have a good success rate. If you think about it, I signed books for three hours and sold thirty books. That’s a book sale every six minutes!

All right authors—get those bookmarks ready! Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with passersby at your signings, hand them out, and smile!

Please check out these links. The first one is the article written about me in The Hilton Head Island Packet: http://www.islandpacket.com/2013/05/19/2509240/a-chat-with-millie-west-author.html

This link is to Southern Writer’s Magazine. Catherine’s Cross was recently the must read of the week: http://southernwritersmagazine.blogspot.com/

My website: www.milliewestauthor.com

Upcoming Events

I will be signing my novels, Catherine’s Cross and The Cast Net, at the following locations. Thanks to all my hosts for having me!

July 13th  The Book Dispensary, 710-C Gracern Road, Columbia SC, 29210  1:00 PM until 3:00 PM

July 20th  Hair Perfections,  130 Amick’s Ferry Road, Chapin SC, 29036 from 11:00 AM until 2:00 PM

July 27th  McIntosh Book Shoppe, 917 Bay Street, Beaufort, SC 29902 from 1:00 PM until 3:00 PM

August 3rd  Barnes and Noble, 278-A Harbison Blvd, Columbia, SC 29210 from 1:00 PM until 3:00 PM

 

How I Researched the Gullah Culture for Catherine’s Cross

I’d like to start by saying that I have been visiting the Sea Islands near Beaufort, SC, for the last twenty years. During that time, I have met and spoken with the descendants of Gullah people. I have listened to the pronunciations of their words and attempted to duplicate the language patterns through characters, Ida Mae, Meta Jane, and Mose Lafitte.

 

While I was writing Catherine’s Cross, I read a novel, Daughter’s of the Dust by Julie Dash. Her novel follows her heroine’s introduction to the Sea Islands near Beaufort. Her mother having been raised on the Sea Islands, has moved north to New York City, but her daughter wants to know her relatives and the land of her ancestors. I thoroughly enjoyed Dash’s depiction of the islands and the Gullah people. In addition, I read The Gullahs of South Carolina by Pearce W. Hammond. He discusses the Gullah culture, their language, and superstitions. For instance, I learned that the cry of a screech owl is a sure sign of death. I reference this superstition in both The Cast Net and Catherine’s Cross.

 

Lastly, I purchased and scanned the Gullah New Testament, De Nyew Testament. I found the writings difficult to understand. For the characters in Catherine’s Cross who speak a version of Gullah, I decided that their pronunciations would be a mix of Gullah and Standard English so they could be understood. Each of the Gullah descendants in Catherine’s Cross are pure and honest individuals.

Virtual tour of Catherine’s Cross

Hi everyone! Please visit the virtual tour of Catherine’s Cross this week. Here’s the schedule:

June 24:  Andi’s Book Reviews
June 25:  Just Jeannie’s Books and Bling
June 26:  Book ‘Em North Carolina
June 26:  Long and Short Reviews 
June 27:  Writers and Authors
June 28:  It’s Raining Books

 

Where do ideas come from?

My novels, The Cast Net and Catherine’s Cross are set in the Low Country of South Carolina. As I was working on The Cast Net, which was my first novel, I read at least twenty-five books on the history of South Carolina. I tried to gain as much knowledge about the area, the people, and the history of our culture and customs. I am a native South Carolinian and many of my ideas come from historical research.

While reading about the Low Country, I came across interesting facts that I used in my novels. For instance, I have a fictitious point of land on one of the rivers near Beaufort, South Carolina, in Catherine’s Cross. I named the point, Nairne Point after Indian agent, Thomas Nairne, who was tortured to death by Yemassee Indians in 1715, during an Indian uprising. The point becomes ominous when a character’s, (he betrayed his Gullah family over their ancestral land) sapphire blue Cadillac is found submerged after a fisherman catches the hood ornament with a fish hook. His body was never recovered, and a relative, Meta Jane, hoped he had a visit with a shark.

From researching the Civil War period, I created the fictitious Catherine’s Cross. The crucifix was stolen from Miss Iris Elliott, the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner in the Beaufort area by Union soldiers. In truth, the Federal navy captured the Beaufort, Hilton Head, and Port Royal communities in late 1861. Their naval base would remain in the Beaufort area throughout the Civil War. During this period, properties were looted including wealthy plantations homes. The white planters fled the area.

Catherine’s Cross was from the collection of Catherine the Great. Iris Elliott’s father had purchased it while on a tour of Europe in the 1850’s. The cross was stolen from the Elliott plantation and stowed on a Union ship bound for a northern destination. A fire breaks out on board, and the boat sinks in waters off the South Carolina coast. The cross becomes a long lost prize sought after by treasure hunting divers.

Diving for artifacts in the waterways around Beaufort is a hobby of sport divers. In the years after Beaufort’s founding in 1711, there were numerous taverns located along the rivers. After beer or wine was consumed, the bottles often ended up at the bottom of the rivers. I have seen these ancient bottles for sale in Low Country antique stores. At the beginning of Catherine’s Cross, the heroine, Jenks’s twin sister Gigi, accidentally drowns while diving for artifacts with her

McIntosh Book Shoppe

Hi all! I will be signing Catherine’s Cross and The Cast Net this Saturday, May 25th at the McIntosh Book Shoppe, 919 Bay Street, Beaufort, SC starting at 1:00 PM. Please come by for a personalized copy! Check out this link: http://www.islandpacket.com/2013/05/19/2509240/a-chat-with-millie-west-author.html

Debut of Catherine’s Cross

I had a wonderful time in Charleston, SC yesterday at the Reinert LePrince Gallery on King Street. I debuted my second novel, Catherine’s Cross. The response from customers was outstanding. I was thrilled when several people stopped by and said they had read my first novel, The Cast Net, and loved it! They then purchased Catherine’s Cross! I had a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Also, I’d like to thank Randy and Kira Berry at Newberry, SC’s Books on Main,  and Rhonda and Betty at Prosperity, SC’s Towne Square Antique Mall for recently hosting me for successful book signing events! Many thanks!

I will be presenting The Cast Net and Catherine’s Cross at the South Carolina Book Festival, this weekend, May 18th and 19th at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, 1101 Lincoln Street, Columbia, SC 29201.