Galatoire’s

One of my Mega Friends dropped off some special watercolors for me this morning, and I used them to paint this picture of Galatoire’s, my favorite restaurant in New Orleans. John sent me a picture of Galatoire’s the other day. He’s been thinking about it and painting it too, as we’re getting ready for his birthday trip to New Orleans in January. Obviously the trip will be different because of the pandemic, but we are a small group of cautious and mindful people and we are slowly starting to make our preparations to still go and hope to safely be able to do at least some of the things we like.

Speaking of New Orleans, it’s where the story of Aimée Bonnard starts. As I’m getting closer to publication, I’m starting to get more and more excited about this new book. I’m also excited about the Kickstarter campaign I’m about to launch. Check out my Preview page here and follow it so you can get notified when the actual campaign starts.

Drive-Through Voting

Today I went to early vote at Houston Community College, and as I was getting ready to park in order to go inside with my best mask on, I saw the drive-through tents. There were lots of drive-through tents, neatly organized like the plethora of pumps at a Buc-ee’s gas station where nobody ever has to wait. I drove around the block and got in line. It was one of the nicest, most efficient things I’ve ever experienced. The poll worker in my tent had on a really good mask, was super friendly, gave me sanitizer, and after checking my ID put the voting machine inside my car and made sure I knew what to do with its rotary dials and its buttons. Then he sat far from me and let me do my business. Of course he gave me the much coveted sticker at the end, and I proudly displayed it on my steering wheel. It all had a very good feel to it, civicness à la Alexis de Tocqueville mixed with the efficiency of modern-day Harris County. Sometimes I forget what I love about Houston, but it’s this type of thing – easy access to things like drive-through voting, the fact that it’s an open, intelligent, forward-thinking kind of community.

My dog, too, clearly belongs here. A genius of innovation, she has mastered the art of carrying her bed up the stairs. She only does it when we have a masked visitor she’s particularly excited about.

Something else exciting: My prelaunch page on Kickstarter for The Glory Days Of Aimée Bonnard is live! Check it out! I will launch the Kickstarter on November 1st. I’m excited as this is the first time I will try to raise money and build momentum for a book in this way.

Deck the Halls

I painted this watercolor to remind y’all that as the Holidays approach, I’m here to paint dogs, cats, Christmas trees, beloved humans, homes, or whatever else you might need painted.

In the meantime I’ve been hanging my Gold Series in the gallery for some upcoming gallery visits and they look great! Pictures can’t really do them justice, so let me know if you’d like to make an appointment to come see them!

A few other cool things: I sold Favorite Nightmare, a painting inspired by Storms of Malhado, and I made this little Canva collage to go with it.

And I made this little video of Lindsay Burck, MoNique LeRoux and me dancing at last year’s Art Launch Gala, because this year’s fundraiser is just around the corner. You can buy tickets and preview the fabulous auction items here.

Mindless Magic

There’s this exercise John asks Escapists to do during the program that consists of making twelve small paintings within an hour. It’s a very freeing exercise as when you paint that fast you can’t think and John says that thinking kills the magic. It’s also a powerful way of getting unstuck and just a good thing to do every now and then. In fact, John suggested I do this in the early days of lockdown back in March when I was freaking out at what was ahead (little did I know, lol). It was a transformative exercise as it allowed me to let go of panic and embrace my creativity, which pulled me through.

Today John asked Lindsay Burck, another Escapist, and a personal friend of mine, to do this exercise. What she came up with was beautiful so it inspired me to to it too, as an extension of my new Gold series.

Also today I drove to League City to hang some art inspired by Storms of Malhado for my #1 reader. Yes, I have a #1 reader, and she’s awesome! She was the very first person to read and review Dogs with Bagels seven years ago, and she’s kept this up for every book I’ve published since.

She bought three watercolors inspired by Suzanne and Betty’s dresses in Storms of Malhado and I also hung a painting for her she had bought earlier this year – Don’t Blame the Goddess. She waited for me wearing her Matilda mask and a limited-edition Houston in the Rain shirt. Which obviously made my day!

Act Like a Monkey

Do you ever act like a monkey? I mean jump around and act really silly with your friends? Recent times have not been conducive to such misbehavior, but we all need it. So tonight we had a little socially distant celebration at my fabulous new collector’s house whose home looks like an extension of my gallery. John was there too, which was quite exciting because I wanted him to see all my work in that space. So we acted like monkeys and jumped around and laughed so hard it hurt and we even did a special little dance. It was so much fun!

Beast of Burden

Today John texted me a picture of two women on either side of a beautiful bovine beast pulling a large cart full of something agrarian. Corn husks? He asked if I’m the one on the left or the one on the right. I said I’m obviously the one in the middle – the cow or ox or whatever burden beast that is. As a Taurus I identify with large placid animals with kind eyes and impressive horns that might be somewhat sluggish but do end up pulling a large burden successfully. Of course I think cows are incredibly beautiful and magical. Do not underestimate the beast of burden!

Also, frankly, I often feel like I’m lifting a heavy load and everyone takes it for granted that I can and that I won’t complain about it. Except for a small handful of people who get me. You know who you are. 😉

Also, cows have good bone structure. Just saying.

Today I made some progress in setting up the Kickstarter campaign and also updated the cover on the preorder page for The Glory Days of Aimée Bonnard. I really like it now and I’m happy after all the feedback I’ve received.

I inflated the air mattress too and Holly put her little headless giraffe on it. Surely that’s a good sign?

And I ordered some dresses by my favorite French brand because cows like to have really nice things. To go with that fabulous bone structure, you know?

Skeleton on a Swing

Good things about today: A great new review for The Adventures of Miss Vulpe, a Goodreads webinar where I picked up some cool new tricks, two nice phone conversations with my friend, coffee, a long walk, a long drive, a gas pump with a giraffe sticker on it, Halloween decorations in Tanglewood, geese flying in a V at sunset.

Not so good things about today: A power outage that lasted four hours but was luckily repaired. I took my dog for a long drive so she wouldn’t be hot. Then I walked her until we both got tired, drove some more to charge my phone and see the lights downtown, and went home to eat hurricane food by flashlight. The power came back on while I was having dry Cheerios for dessert, which were frankly quite yummy.

Cover Fever

Today offered an opportunity to cast away my to-do list and go with the flow. My imagination seized upon it, hungry for play – though y’all know I feed it daily and feed it well. It wanted to explore cover ideas for The Glory Days of Aimée Bonnard. I already had a cover I liked, but I’ve been thinking a lot about covers lately, and I’ve joined a Facebook critique group where I was both excited and terrified to post my creation and ask for feedback. The suggestions were plentiful and led in a direction I had anticipated. The cover should convey the genre of the book at a glance. So I added a few elements that could do that. The resulting cover was something the critique group seemed to like.

But did I like it? Does it look like the cover of a book I’d be tempted to check out, or one I’d be tempted to pass? I’m afraid pass. And it seems that so would my readers. Because when I posted the old and new cover for my readers to discuss, they expressed their preference clearly and pretty much unanimously. My readers like the first cover I made, the simple streamlined one which includes instead of added visual elements a quote from the book as a teaser.

So I’m back to the cover I started with. But I would say today’s work in trying to come up with something better and get feedback was well worth it. It was fun, it was informative, I acquired new skills, and most importantly I created excitement among my readers for this new book. It also reminded me that despite everything one might learn from other authors and experts in general about covers and many other things, my readers and I have similar affinities so it’s important to trust the aesthetic that appeals to me. Like many other things in life, it’s important to stay true to oneself and not be easily swayed. I’ll log in to Amazon tomorrow and change the cover back – but this was fun!

Fearless

Today I did three things that scare me, but that I’ve been meaning to do for a while: I’ll start with the smallest one and work my way up. I posted my cover and blurb for The Glory Days of Aimée Bonnard on a critique group on Facebook that tends to be pretty ruthless.

I also approached an author I admire, and whose work has influenced this project, about possibly writing a short introduction to the book.

And finally… Drumroll! I rented a house! Not just any house, but a lovely house with hardwood floors and great wall space in the Heights, walking distance from John’s, on a street with shady trees, sidewalks, and ample parking for my collectors. Finding the perfect house has been a process and an adventure. But the tiny eggplant growing in the alley lead me to a beautiful place that’s well-suited to what I do. I’m getting the keys to my new life on Halloween. And I couldn’t be more excited!

Here’s the blurb for The Glory Days of Aimée Bonnard:

From the author of Storms of Malhado comes a new historical novel delving into a captivating element of Galveston’s past: the world of prostitution.

Nobody comes to a brothel seeking a true story. But you will want to learn the truth about Aimée Bonnard, the best-paid woman in Galveston. Formerly known as Yvonne LaCroix, Aimée arrives on the Island in the summer of 1898. She’s looking for work in a high-end brothel, but she is also outrunning the consequences of a deadly night in New Orleans – a night in which a rival prostitute lost her life. Mistress of deception, Aimée charms and entices her way into an existence of extravagance and adventure in one of the most exclusive brothels of Galveston. But does the life of a high-end prostitute offer as much freedom as Aimée craves? And will her past catch up with her?

Befriending artists, architects, merchants, and gamblers, as well as a modest but kind-hearted doctor, Aimée falls in love with Galveston Island and discovers aspects of her own personality that surprise her. As a talented courtesan, her glory days are only just beginning. But a different Aimée surfaces, one that wants things that could stand in the way of her professional success, including allowing herself to fall in love. Meanwhile the past is closing in on her and Aimée will have to choose between the protection of a despotic madam and the uncertainty of taking matters into her own hands.

Running Free

It seemed fitting that I would paint these Appaloosas today as I’m planning something that will result in me feeling a lot more free. I’ll let y’all know soon enough what it is!

After my calligraphy workshop last week with John, I sat down today and wrote a sample letter from Aimée. I made a little collage to illustrate the backer rewards of my Kickstarter campaign. I’m starting to get excited about this!