What happens when you take a shy mystery writer, whisk her away from her computer and plunk her down in the middle of a dazzling book party held in a jewelry store?
That’s what I was about to find out as I climbed out of the safety of my air-conditioned car and headed through the warm summer night toward the brightly lit windows of Dickinson Jewelers in Dunkirk, Maryland.
Kathy Dickinson, store co-owner and marketing wizard, had read about my jewelry-oriented mystery novel, The Blue Diamond, and offered to sponsor a cocktail party/book reading and signing in my honor. That the book is only available electronically posed no significant obstacle; the store paid to print booklets containing excerpts from the story for signing.
No, the only obstacle to tonight’s event was my own fear of disappointing the people who attended.
I’d spent the day nervously cleaning house, trying to ignore the butterflies doing a Conga in my stomach (those winged beauties sure know how to boogie). When I found myself cleaning the oven, I knew I was in trouble.
I’d successfully given talks to audiences, large and small. But this talk was different. Instead of instructing people in writing techniques or telling stories about nonfiction writing, I’d be addressing readers of my very first novel. The very people I’d fantasized about ever since I penned my first mystery in second grade.
What if they didn’t like what I had to say?
Well, at least I now had a clean house, I thought as I reached for the door. Taking a deep breath, I stepped inside the store. The scene that greeted me made me feel like Cinderella at the ball.
An array of necklaces, earrings and bracelets glittered inside glass display cases. Blue acrylic “diamonds” accented a cloth-covered case laden with trays of bite-sized sweets, bouquets of blue rock candy and a crystal dispenser of iced tea. The pop of champagne bottles mingled with the “oohs” and “aahs” emitted by the gaily dressed women hovering over a case of colored diamonds.
Kathy Dickinson greeted me, followed by Alison Setzer, my self-appointed fairy godmother (who, by the way, is young enough to be my fairy granddaughter). Alison had been the one to coordinate the invitations, the press releases, the door prizes, the decorations and food. She’d done everything except turn a pumpkin into a carriage. But that was okay; a slow horse and buggy ride would have given me longer to fret.
Alison led me past a display featuring the cover of my book and a grouping of wrapped door prizes which, I knew, included a Kindle, copies of my eBook and the opportunity to name a character in the next Jeweler’s Gemstone Mystery.
Nearby, more women and a scattering of men hovered beside a long-stemmed water glass filled with acrylic blue diamonds. Guess the number of “diamonds,” a sign said, and win a $100 gift certificate to Dickinson Jewelers.
“I thought we’d set you up over here,” Alison said, leading me through a maze of comfortable-looking chairs arranged between the jewelry displays.
I followed her behind another jewelry counter and began to lay out the items I’d need for my talk: Kindle, bookmarks, index cards, photos. As I worked, I glanced around the room. People kept coming. And coming. And coming.
“Uh, Alison, how many people are coming?”
Alison grinned. “I stopped counting at 57 RSVPs.”
Fortunately, I didn’t have long to worry. People began choosing seats and when all were filled, Kathy and Alison introduced me. As I looked out at the sea of faces, it occurred to me that when Cinderella crashed the party, all she had to do was look pretty and dance. This Cinderella needed to entertain.
Taking a deep breath, I channeled another fictional character: Sheherazade. I told stories. About the first time I saw a blue diamond. About “helping” my grandfather on his diamond-buying trips. About writing my first mystery novel – at the age of 9.
I read portions of my book, delighting in the audience’s reactions. My gosh, they were laughing and gasping in all the right places!
Alison practically needed a grappling hook to get me off the “stage.” So much for the shy mystery author.
I spent the rest of the evening signing booklets and bookmarks, selecting door-prize winners, listening to readers’ own stories. The stories told by the Dickinson family alone could fill several books. Brooke Stuart, who won the opportunity to name a character in the next book, said this was something she’d always wanted to do. How cool is that?
All too soon, the evening came to a close. Store employees began emptying jewelry cases. Readers bid me farewell, promising to read the next book in the series. Alison reflected that for the next book – featuring pirates, rubies and girl bullies – she’d bake red velvet cupcakes. Just as long as she didn’t mess with any pumpkins.
As I reluctantly stepped outside into the dimly lighted parking lot, leaving the gleaming store behind, I couldn’t stop smiling. Never mind that I could never stuff my arthritic feet into a pair of glass slippers. This night had been magical.
Cinderella would be so jealous.