Panel Etiquette or What Not To Do In A Panel

During my very short writing career I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of two authors’s panels. Obviously I’m not an expert and this blog is merely a reflection of my limited experience and pure observation of many other panels I attended in the past.

My first time as part of a panel was at a major book event and I was so lucky to share it with two amazing writers. It was a great experience. The questions were smart and thought provoking (and hard), everybody had an equal chance to talk, and the audience was engaged throughout the whole thing.

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At that same event I was part of the audience for another panel with four great YA writers and I was astounded by the lack of courtesy one of the members showed the others by monopolizing the conversation. The other authors were frustrated and I was equally upset because the one author I was there to hear talk never got the chance to open her mouth. I felt cheated as a fan and I’m sure she felt cheated of her chance to interact with her readers.

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My second time was at a smaller event and things didn’t quite go as smoothly for me this time. The subject of the panel was something I’m very passionate about and I prepared for hours so that the audience wouldn’t get bored. Unfortunately a couple of the other panel members seemed to be totally oblivious to time constraints or be respectful of the other members. It took them over thirty minutes to answer a question which had a time limit of five minutes. On top of it all, they read from the handout going home with the audience (which was supposed to be an extension of what was discussed during the panel). Needless to say I was frustrated, bored, and the teacher in me really wanted to explain to them the concept of sticking to the schedule.

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Here are some pointers (which I totally made up for this blog) on what NOT to do in a panel discussion.

  • Do NOT go over the time allotted to you for each discussion point or question.
  • Do NOT insult your audience by reading directly from your notes. Your audience knows how to read and can read the notes on their own and on their own time.
  • Do NOT hog the discussion. Allow the other authors in the panel to participate no matter how fascinating you believe your speech is. Others may not be as passionate about it.
  • Do NOT take the lack of hands up in the air as evidence that the audience is fascinated by your words. They may very well be taking an open-eyed nap or visiting their zen place while you speak.
  • Do NOT explain the whole plot of your book to explain something generic to the genre.

In summary, and to put it quite simply, respect the other members’s right to discuss the content matter and try to make it interesting enough for the audience to feel they haven’t wasted their time.

Note: the panels pictured in this article are not in any way related to the ones I attended. In fact, judging by the smiles, I would say these particular panels were probably quite awesome 🙂

An RT Memoir of Sorts

It’s been crazy since I came back from RT Atlanta. I haven’t quite got my bearings back and I have sat a million times–forgive the literary liberty–to write this blog without much success. But I am here now and this post WILL be written.

In case you don’t know RT stands for Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention, a huge affair for both writers and their readers–not to mention the oh-so-lovely male models.

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This was my first time at the convention and, even though I was only able to attend for one day, I loved it. I was there Wednesday only, so I missed most of the fun, but I did manage to attend a few panels that day and meet my Hot Tree clan (awesome bunch).

I focused on panels dedicated to marketing, branding, and advertising because–well, I would like to sell my books. So far, and after three published novels, my author’s income wouldn’t feed my feral cat much less my family.

Some of the panels were very good and helpful, others not so much. I will be writing a series of blogs to share the information I gathered from the ones that were indeed great and useful. As you know I’m a pantser so the following might not pan out quite as I planned 🙂

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  1. Finding balance. Or how not to go bonkers trying to make it as a writer.
  2. The next best thing. Or is being a hybrid author better than it sounds?
  3. Marketing versus selling. The very non-identical twins.
  4. New markets. Or how to reach readers who feel left out.
  5. Successful scripts for ads. Or how to make those few words work for you.

Well, that’s the plan. I can’t promise I’ll stick to it. Come back for the next few weeks to find out if I do (wink, wink) and to get some useful information about the business of writing (romance edition). It’s going to be epic(ish).

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#ChickLitMay Book Boyfriend Blog Hop

VOTE FOR JEM–YOU KNOW YOU WANNA!

Hiya! I’m JEREMY PETER but please call me Jem. I’ve always hated my name. That is until my best friend–and love of my life–began calling me that to annoy me, lol. I don’t mind so much now because every time I hear it I’m reminded of her. I get this funny fluttering in my stomach and I’m lost. Love that woman!

But I digress. Why should you vote for me for CLC HQ’s Book Boyfriend 2017? Let me count the ways:

  • I’m good looking–in a boy-next-door, not-really-aware kind of way. Emily Rose claims that her favorite hobby is to run her fingers through my curls and stare into my ocean-blue eyes. You be the judge 😉
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JEREMY PETER

  • I’m not perfect, not even close. I messed up big with Em but I fessed up to it and will do anything to be forgiven. Even put my life on the line–or go to yoga with my love.
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Emily Rose (Em)

  • I will eat just about anything, so my sweet Em will never have to worry about cooking for me. I’ll be just as happy going through the drive-through at McDonald’s as eating a gourmet meal. I love food. Period!
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Celia (Em’s sister)

  • I always support my love to the best of my abilities, even if it means looking like Confucius in drag.
  • I have a great sense of humor. I can make light of any situation. Ask Emily Rose if you don’t believe me. I laughed my way to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
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Marcy, the witch

  • I’m so the best choice for CLC HQ’s Book Boyfriend 2017! Even magic couldn’t keep me from loving and fighting for my Em.

Vote for me, JEREMY PETER!

You know it’s the right choice.

Print

To buy click here

Send your vote to:  traciebanister@gmail.com

To enter for the Grand Prize

Hop to all the blog stops, collect the candidate’s name at each stop, then submit all 30 names to the address above  in order to be entered in our Grand Prize giveaway. This giveaway includes a Kindle Paperwhite + 30 e-books, one from each of the authors participating in the hop. I will be giving away an e-copy of Loved You Always . Entries for the hop will be accepted until Sunday, May 21st at midnight E.D.T. A winner will be chosen on Monday, May 22nd. This Grand Prize giveaway is open internationally.

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Photo credits:

Picture of Parker Gregory by Mario Testino

Jessica Lu (photographer unknown)

“Celia”‘s picture by Pupulandia

Miss Pandora by Gardrop Kedisi

BLOG STOPS

Tracie Banister 

Becky Monson 

Hilary Grossman 

Glynis Astie  

Jayne Denker  

Jennie Marts  

Barbara Valentin  

Beth Labonte  

Victoria Cooke  

Holly Kerr  

Meredith Schorr 

Stacey Wiedower  

Laurie Baxter 

Jennifer Farwell  

Natalina Reis  

Celia Kennedy  

Beth Carter 

Ellyn Oaksmith 

BJ Knapp  

Lizzie Lamb  

Sylvia Ashby  

Karen M. Cox 

Lindsay Detwiler  

Kirsty McManus  

Melissa Baldwin 

Geralyn Corcillo 

Cassandra O’Leary 

Cat Lavoie 

Kate O’Keeffe  

Monique McDonell  

 

A Constellation of Stars

I hung out with a constellation of stars this past weekend. Okay, maybe not exactly real stars (like in the heavenly bodies) but certainly with stars in their eyes. I speak of the fellow romance writers and all around amazing women I met during my stint at pretending to be a famous author at the Virginia Festival of the Book.

Last year I came across (can’t even remember how) information about this yearly festival and that there was a chance–however slim–my books may be picked to be represented there. Nobody can blame me of being unenthusiastic. In fact I am at times stupidly optimistic. At the time I had one book published and one under contract and nobody knew who the hell I was (that part still holds true today, I’m afraid). But I had to try. I have missed so many good things in my life for being overly-cautious or just plain not confident enough, that I have decided in recent years to be brave even when it seems I’m just being impulsive. I went for it. The worst thing that could happen was none of my books would be picked and I would be out of four softcovers.

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I entered both the book I had out and the one that would be published before the deadline of November. As it turned out I sent copies of Desert Jewel after the deadline already. Imagine my surprise when not only was D.J. picked for the Festival but I was picked to be a speaker. A speaker! You know, talking in front of people I don’t know.

Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep the week leading to my panel. Especially after I received the questions the moderator, Her Awesomeness herself, Madeline Iva, who gave me an awful lot more credit than I probably deserved. Those questions were hard!

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I relaxed significantly after talking to my co-panelist, the fabulous Pintip Dunn and equally amazing Margaret Locke. Knowing that they had both dubbed it the Torture Panel because of the difficulty of the questions made me feel a whole lot better about it, strangely enough.

I could not have asked for a better moderator or co-panelists. What a fantastic group of women writers. I hope I didn’t sound too stupid because I definitely had a lot of fun.

Even though I didn’t sell one single copy of my book (kind of used to it) I had a proud moment when the winner of  a raffle picked the poster of the cover of my book over these other great books and told me she was going to try and convince her book club to read it. Score!

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All in all it was a great weekend. The other authors, the city of Charlottesville, the panels (who would have thought that listening to the male voices of audio romance books would be this exciting?), having two of my friends there to cheer me on…it was out of this world.

Note: If you’d like to hear (because you won’t be able to see us since it was recorded from a distance) our panel, Heroines of Destiny hop on to my Facebook page where I have posted it and some other pictures from the event.

Challenging My Introvert-Self

If you follow me you probably know by now that I’m an introvert. I love people, but I need my quiet and alone time. I love meeting with my friends but if I meet with more than a couple at time, I need a day or two to recuperate. It physically drains me.

I don’t go to concerts (unless it’s a classical music one and  I can sit in the dark while listening to it) even though I love music because I can’t handle the crowds, the noise, the constant movement…I hate being like that sometimes!

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Now that I am a bona fide published writer I discovered that I must try and do what does not come naturally to me if I want to make an impact with potential readers and/or potential publishers. It’s not the first time that I’m called to challenge my introvert-self. My first career, a tour guide in Portugal, required me to speak to a bus full of people (in different languages) on a regular basis. So, my new year’s resolution for 2017 was to put myself out there.

My first chance is coming up this Saturday as I will speak in public to a room full of people (hopefully it won’t be empty) as part of  a three-author panel at the Virginia Festival of the Book. My partners in crime have a lot more experience than I do.One is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction and winner of a RITA award (not to mention she’s a Harvard graduate) and the other is a full PAN member of the Romance Writers of America which requires the author to have sold quite a few books. I am neither.

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I am a second language learner who has always loved to read and write. I have a couple degrees in two countries and I have sold very few books in spite of having three out. Needless to say I’m a freaking nervous wreck.

In May I will be travelling to Atlanta for the great RT Book Lovers Convention where I will meet my amazing publisher and a bunch of other authors. I’m so excited to meet them all but very nervous as well.

And to further challenge myself I just applied to be a speaker at another big writers’event in September (not sure my proposal will be accepted but…hey!). Apparently I’m a sucker for punishment, lol.

Moral of the story? Not sure there is one but, if you’re an introvert like me, know that you can do it. It’s not easy and you may not sleep the week preceding the event (yeah, I’m pretty exhausted) but you CAN do it! Introverts of the world unite…even if in a different place and by yourselves (paraphrased from a FB post I saw a while back. Sorry I can’t remember the author’s name).

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From the Ashes of Hate

Caution: venting ahead.

I’ve been so disappointed with humanity lately. I woke up today feeling exhausted and felt even worse after listening to the news. Those of you who know me or follow me here and/or on Facebook know that I very rarely talk about politics, religion or sports (you may laugh about the last one but being married into a sports-fanatic family this is a no-no subject in our house). Being a woman of a certain age means I have been through many things the younger crowd can’t even imagine (now I really sound like my grandma).

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When I was ten my country went through a revolution. The fascist government that had been in power pretty much since royalty became a thing of the past was deposed after a military coup. For the next decade we lived and breathed politics—and what people who had been repressed for far too long thought meant freedom. The music we heard, the movies we watched, the shows on TV, the conversation at the coffee shop were all around politics.  It took a long time to go back to the regularly scheduled program of life in the global stage. I don’t want to go back to that.

I am tired of all the arguing and finger-pointing that has been going on for the past year. Worse, my heart breaks every time I watch news of violence in the name of ideologies that profess tolerance and peace. What the hell are we doing?

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I hear from friends who have “unfriended” friends and family members because they were on the “other side” (whatever the side may be), husbands and wives fighting over politics, hate spewing from people’s mouths no matter where you turn to. I’m tired. I feel cranky all the time. I go to yoga, find my peace but as soon as I leave the studio it hits me again, that anger that permeates the air of lately.

I thought we, humans, had evolved but it seems like we take one step forward only to take many more backwards. Freedom is our right, but let’s not forget what the definition of freedom is. I had to take a class on economy and politics when I was in college. I don’t remember much about it but there is one thing I will never forget; the way individual freedoms were defined. It goes like this: you’re free to do whatever up to the point when it begins infringing on somebody else’s freedom. That’s where it stops. I have lived by that tenet ever since. There’s been a lot of people stepping over that line these past few months.

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I have friends in both sides of the debate and it’s been painful to watch as one side attacks the other. And you want to know what the irony (and scariest) part of it all is? As someone who has never supported one side or the other exclusively and is an expert at observing (a major perk of being an introvert) I hear the almost exact complaints from either side. The left blames those on the right for the same things the right blames those on the left. It’s insane. It’s exhausting and serves absolutely no other purpose than creating an environment of anger and negative energy.

Yesterday, for the first time in a long while, I felt a glint of hope that we may yet be peaceful and rational people. From the ashes of what has been a troubling wave of hate and violence, something beautiful emerged. I’m so proud of what women across the country (and some males) managed to do yesterday (Jan 21). Crowds of thousands across the country marched in solidarity and peace to demand the respect we deserve as human beings. Ladies, I’m so proud of being a woman in the US today. Thanks you for protesting in peace. You give me hope.

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Note:  I didn’t make it to the March because of my fear of crowds (anxiety issues) but together with a few other women I celebrated the occasion at yoga by focusing on the fifth chakra (voice) and in solidarity with all my friends who were marching in a super crowded Washington D.C.

 

The Heart of Christmas

It’s Christmas again. At one point—for most of my life really—Christmas was my favorite holiday. My father was a true Santa Claus who just adored the holiday and was able to turn it into pure magic to us kids. I wanted to do the same for my boys but I think I have failed miserably. But that’s a story for another day.

This year Christmas sneaked up on me and found me totally and utterly unprepared. Never in my long-ish life have I ever got to December 21 without a single gift bought or a grocery run done. No cookies baked, no treats arranged artistically in bags for my students and colleagues, no Christmas music playing continually on the radio. If it wasn’t for my oldest son, his girlfriend and my husband we probably wouldn’t even have a tree up this year.

Depression brought on by total exhaustion of mind and body has left me without any energy or motivation to do any of the things I so loved to do. I did “adopt” a couple kids for Christmas, I donated some of my books for a good cause, and I was the secret Santa for someone at work. But other than that I have been a total humbug.

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So when my new team surprised me with a truly Christmas-y breakfast this morning I was floored and grateful. For the first time this season I felt the spirit take me to that place where magic and wonder still live. It was heartwarming and uplifting.

This is my feeble way of thanking them and gift them with the one thing I do best. You did my soul good this morning. Thank you.

 

Agent Speed-Dating

This past weekend I attended my first writing workshop as a writer. Since I signed up for it my knowledge and experience with the world of publishing has evolved and deepened, so the actual informational sessions were a bit too basic for my needs (but very interesting). However, I had also signed up for a ten-minute pitch session with two agents. This was a total first for me and I had very little clue as to what exactly I was supposed to say or do.

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I prepared a short speech, dressed professionally, and tried to ignore the butterflies dancing around in my stomach. But when the time came to face the first agent I’m not going to lie to you, I froze big time. The agent in question was amazing. She reminded of teachers I know realizing one of their students has frozen out of anxiety. She was kind, patient, offering cues as to what information she wanted to hear and volunteered very good advice. In the end she was also kind enough to ask me to send her a sample of the manuscript even though I had totally botched the “audition”.

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My second face-to-face session was in the afternoon and I was less nervous and a bit more prepared (thanks to the previous agent’s advice) but still anxious. Again, the agent was very kind, showed interest in the story, asked me all the right questions, gave me great advice, and in the end asked me for a sample of the manuscript as well.

That evening I got sick. My body just couldn’t handle all the pressure and anxiety and I crashed. No worries. I have bounced back, all in one piece.

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In spite of being seriously nerve wrecking it was a very good experience. Even though other people said that it had not been the case with them, I have no complaints. I sounded like a bumbling idiot and those two ladies held my hand and managed to coax a mildly-coherent pitch out of me. I was impressed!

A critique panel was also part of the event and, however brutal it was at times, it was extremely enlightening. We got a rare bird view of what the agents look forward in and what makes an agent stop reading a manuscript.

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Now I am heading for the big boys. Pushing myself to make reservations for the RWA in Atlanta next year. What are you up to fellow writers?

Enter to Win

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ANNOUNCING TWO CONTESTS FOR AMAZON GIFT CARDS

AND AN EXCLUSIVE ANTHOLOGY

BOTH CONTESTS END ON AUGUST 31

 

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Subscribe at https://debbiedelouise.com or email debbiewriter@yahoo.com with your address to ask to be subscribed. Prizes will only be awarded if a minimum of 10 people enter.

 

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Submit a photo of you, a friend, or even a pet with my book, A Stone’s Throw. All photos submitted to me by email at debbiewriter@yahoo.com by August 31st. will be entered in a random drawing for the $10 Amazon gift card. Those who submit photos agree that they may be used on social media.

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 Debbie Teaser

Anthology Contest + $5 AMAZON GIFT CARD

For a $5 Amazon gift card and an anthology of romances written by 16 authors including myself, read the excerpt below and answer this question: What magical power did the stone have? Send your reply by August 31st. to debbiewriter@yahoo.com. Only newsletter subscribers are eligible to win, and this contest is not sponsored by Mailchimp or Yahoo. The winner will be announced in the September 1st. newsletter.

Excerpt from The Seashell and the Stone by Debbie De Louise (c) 2016 Debbie De Louise

As Virginia and Stephen made their way toward the end of the boardwalk, the merry-go-round music that drifted along their path changed to a loud cacophony of whistles and horn blasts announcing “the greatest show on earth.” A man on stilts came hobbling toward them, his wide yellow polka-dotted pants flapping in the breeze off the ocean. “Good day, Ma’am. Good day, Sir,” he greeted them. “Right this way to the midway.” He chuckled at his use of words.

Up ahead, Virginia spotted the circus tents lined on the beach and the acrobatic high-wire strung high across two tall poles. 

“I guess you need to find the person in charge to ask about selling here.” 

Mr. Granger was scanning the crowd seated on folding chairs by the first tent where a magician was performing some tricks to the rapt audience. “Let’s look around first. Would you like to sit and watch the show?”

Virginia was pleased that he seemed more interested in her company than the business that brought him there. “No, but I would enjoy going there.” She pointed toward a tent that displayed the sign, “Madame Marie, Fortune Teller.”

“Are you serious? You know these carnival mystics are not worth the money.”

Virginia felt her anger flare again as it had when he had criticized her for feeding Seashell table scraps. “It’s my money to spend and that’s how I wish to spend it.” Her father had given her a $1 note as well as a few silver coins for carnival expenses. 

“Very well.” Mr. Granger followed her reluctantly toward Madame Marie’s tent. The psychic sat behind a round table covered in red velvet. She wore a matching red kerchief in her long dark curly hair. Several rings graced her hands as she sat turning over tarot cards and gazing into a crystal ball. At their approach, she lay down the cards and beckoned them with a smile missing several teeth. Virginia could smell the lady’s foul breath, onions mixed with garlic. She lay down one of her coins, but the woman pushed it away. “For you, I will tell a fortune for free. Please have a seat.”

Mr. Granger stood waiting by the side of the tent as Virginia took the chair opposite Marie. “Why are you not charging me?”

Marie shuffled the cards and placed them face down in a pile. “Direct your energy on the cards and then choose one,” the woman instructed ignoring Virginia’s question.

Virginia followed her directions while Mr. Granger stood with a bored look on his face shuffling from foot to foot.

“Ah,” Marie said as she turned over the card Virginia picked to reveal a man and woman with an angel above them. “The Lovers. How appropriate.”

“Does it mean I’ll be wed soon?” Virginia asked.

“Yes, my dear. There is a special gentleman in your life or will be soon.” She placed the card at the bottom of the deck and tapped the glass ball in front of her. “If you’d like to know more or ask a question, it will be 1 greenback, please.”

“Wait one moment,” Mr. Granger interrupted. “You told the lady your predictions were free.”

The psychic smiled showing her missing teeth again. “The tarot reading is free. There’s a charge for the crystal ball.”

“I guess you have to make money somehow. Come on, Miss Vance, let us move on.”

“Wait.” Virginia did not like being ordered around, and she was curious as to what Madame Marie would see in her crystal ball. She had her fortune told at the circus last year but by a gypsy man. Marie seemed to be new to the troop. “I told you I’ll spend my money the way I wish.”

A fire flared in Mr. Granger’s blue eyes. “You mean your father’s money, but, go ahead. She will only tell you what you wish to hear and what she observes from your reactions. I am sure the Tarot card was planted too. Most young women are looking for love. You don’t have to be a psychic to know that.”

Virginia stood up. As much as she disliked his words, she knew he had a point. None of the predictions made for her last year proved to come true. “Thank you, Madame Marie, but I may return after seeing more of the circus.”

“As you wish.” Marie glared after Stephen as he walked away with Virginia.

“If you really want to know your future,” he said as they passed several more tents, “I have something that can help.” 

“Whatever do you mean?” 

“I was not exactly honest with you about my occupation.” Virginia felt excitement flood through her at the thought that Mr. Granger was about to share the information she sought without her having to resort to any of her tricks to pry it out of him.

“Let’s sit on a bench for a moment,” he suggested guiding her away from the crowd.

He seemed to hesitate briefly as if he regretted his haste in revealing what he was about to say. Then he reached into his trouser pocket and retrieved a translucent stone. For a second she thought it was a Cape May diamond, the crystals that resembled the real jewels that Cape May residents and visitors searched for along the beach. However, they had not spent any time on the sand, and he had just arrived in town.
“You may have wondered why I did not bring along my merchandise to show the circus leader.”

Her eyes were focused on the glittery stone. “I thought they were too heavy to carry on our walk.”

“I would’ve at least brought a sample.”

“But what is that you have in your hand?”

“This is the reason I’m here. I’ve been following carnivals and circuses along the East Coast to offer my services, and this stone is one of my tools.”

“Your services?” This was more intriguing than she expected. “What exactly are your services?”

He smiled and, unlike Madame Marie, exhibited perfect white teeth. “I’m a psychic. A genuine one, but I need the stone to aid me. It was passed down to me from my father who received it from his own father. I believe it was originally found by my great grandfather.”

Virginia was not convinced. “Are you saying that rock guides you in telling the future?”

His smile deepened, and she saw a dimple appear in his cheek. “I guess that’s a way of putting it. If I rub the rock and ask a question, the answer appears in my mind.”