Through belly dancing, I have met some incredible people from all walks of life. One place where I dance regularly in downtown Jacksonville, Zodiac Bar & Grille, has been one such place. The owners are so down to earth and their food is soooo good! They allow me to sell my book between my dancing sets, thus many of the regulars have read it. Before I get into talking about the book club I feel like I have to thank the first Zodiac patron to have finished reading my book, John Daughtry (known to many as J.D). Not only is he one of the most community-oriented people in this city-town, but he has also been one of the biggest fans of Journey to Ohmani and gone out of his way to promote it for me. It's amazing how fast a stranger can become such a good friend! One of the waitresses there, Tricia, has also been so incredibly supportive of me. She and Liz Cline decided to make Journey to Ohmani their book of April for their ladies book club. I was surprised and delighted!
So last Saturday night I waltzed into a condiminuim complex in downtown Jax and made my way up to the penthouse common area with my best friend, SaLydia. Wine was overflowing, food was plentiful, and as I met the attendees I knew right away I was surrounded by women with kind hearts and sharp intellects. Many were teachers - there was even an English professor from UNF - and conversation was thought-provoking and genuine.
It was very informal, a Q&A mostly, and it was so fun to talk about my book in a critical and interpretive way. Many of them noticed my shout-outs to Jax (the main character being named after Avondale near Riverside and one of the main characters being named Fletch after Fletcher High School). I found myself excited to tell them more about my naming inspirations. For example, "the rail" that they order at one of the bars in the book is named after a real signature drink one cannot go to Virginia Tech without ordering (at TOTs). "Sydces" is named after my best friend SaLydia and her husband Frances. Talon tells Levi she will be at the bar in a "red shirt" - something I texted to Ryan on our first date.
I could go on and on, but it reminded me of why this book is so personal to me...as all writing should be. I hid away secrets of my life and personal experiences in the names, places and experiences of the characters - not in a way that would drive the plot or even stand-out, but would just give me some sort of inner satisfaction. And as I'm sure many on you have experienced from your own writings, you really care about the characters you write. You get to know them like your getting to know a friend. How in the world does George R.R. Martin kill so many beloved characters?! I even love the world I dreamed up - Ohmani - the "Las Vegas of Space." Now I understand why it cuts so deep when people do not like your writing. You can't help but feel like they don't like your "friends," your "world," "their" story. I guess what I am saying is that I was surprisingly delighted at just how personal writing can be .
But writing isn't about the author...its about the reader. No matter how much it means to me on a personal level, people should find it a page-turner. That's why this book club meant so much to me. Amazon reviews and conversations here and there are great feedback, but this felt like months of great feedback in the course of a couple of hours. Overall, they really loved it (one person did say sci-fi was not their genre so she did not read it) and I appreciated their interpretations and personal thoughts on the plot, pace, and prose. I also made friends and found a new book club along the way! So I would like to say THANK YOU to these ladies one more time - for reading my book, for speaking honestly about it, and for being kind, supportive individuals.
Until next time...