|Karen, left, with Ann at Sundog|
Karen perched on the porch with fellow novelist Ann Hite, sharing a table to greet customers, swap tales and sign copies of their new books, respectively, “Mother of Rain” and “The Storycatcher.”
Despite humidity that made clothes stick and skin glisten, this was a good place to catch a story.
Bob, for instance, brought cookies he had baked for Karen. Long story short: The last time she came through the area, Bob had been baking cookies for Karen’s grandson, who was one of her traveling companions on that tour, when he had a heart attack.
“I’ve only ever visited one fan in a hospital ICU,” Karen said, patting Bob’s hand.
That’s the kind of front porch tale-swapping you seldom get these days. At least, on a bookstore’s stoop. Or maybe it is exactly what you find there, and I just don’t hang out at Sundog as often as I should.
|Karen and Me|
Looking something like friendly haints from out of the past themselves, Karen and Ann wore frilly aprons and head wraps Tuesday, and Karen added what looked to me like bloomers. (Not that I’m a fashion expert.) She strolled around the store barefoot and giddy, like a spirit in a favorite haunt.
I asked her why she wore the costume — I took the chance that this was not her regular attire, and I joked that I was in my own “work costume” of Hawaiian shirt and black hat. Her response was down-to-earth.
“If you’re from Oregon and you’re going to be on tour 30 days, you don’t want to have to think about what to wear,” she said.
I mention haints for two reasons. One, because friendly ghosts feature in Ann’s novel, and Karen recently blogged about how the subject offended a woman at one of their talks on this tour. The woman declared that Jesus warned believers not to call forth haints after hearing Karen relate the old rural legend about the hitchhiker that turns out to be Jesus.
Myself, I recall shucking sweet corn on the porch of my devoutly religious great-grandparents’ home in Century, and listening to aunts and uncles tell stories of haints in the woods, visits from the recently departed, and dream travels to foreign lands — and how those things fired my imagination.
Ann said the ghostly characters in her novel aren’t the scary ones. As in life, it’s usually the regular human beings that give you cause to fear.
|Karen pretends to read my "33 Days" story collection.|
(This was my Undercurrents column for PanamaCity.com this week.)