This week, I promised to tell you about the other things we did on our holiday that I didn’t refer to in my book but which were all amazing and well worth doing if you’re ever in Tennessee.
The first thing I wanted to mention was The Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville. This was my favourite museum of all the ones we visited, with The Ryman and The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum coming a close second. First of all, the café and shop were quite small and clearly not the main focus of your visit (this was to prove very important when we went to Graceland a few days later). This meant that the museum took up all the room and rightly so. There were so many fantastic exhibits, ranging from Johnny’s birth certificate to a piece of wall from his house!
There were lots of music items too, like his guitar and his boots, along with other outfits he’d worn. There was a whole room given over to his platinum and gold records and beyond that, an exhibition devoted to Sun Records where he started out. One of our favourite things was a stand where you could listen to one of his songs in all its different formats – a 78, then a 33, then a 45 record, a cassette, a CD and finally, an MP3 version. It was great listening to the difference in ‘hiss’ on the different formats. Strangely, the 78 record seemed to offer the best quality.
If you like Johnny Cash, you will love the museum of course but even if you don’t know his music much at all, you will come out eager to go and find one of his albums and listen to it again and again. My older daughter felt just like this and it was great to see how much she enjoyed it.
We did so many musical things while we were in Nashville, going to The Bluebird Café, singing with a Live Band at The Hard Rock Café’s weekly karaoke (there are videos but you’ll have to pay me a lot of money to let you see mine!), listening to some Honky Tonk music at Robert’s Western World and we ended our week with a trip to The Grand Ole Opry House for their Saturday show. The Grand Ole Opry started out as a one-hour radio show on WSM dedicated to country music and has had various homes around the Nashville area. It is now housed in a building east of downtown Nashville near the Opry Mills shopping mall and the show we went to lasted for over two hours. It’s a curious blend of traditional and contemporary country music, interspersed with adverts from their sponsors and some quirky acts like square dancers! It was a bit cheesy at times but we spent a lot of time laughing along with the rest of the audience. It is a part of Nashville’s history and we loved it. One of the best moments for me of course, was seeing Charles Esten who plays the character Deacon in the ABC TV series, ‘Nashville.’ He was the inspiration for my character, Jackson, and so it was fantastic to see him perform on stage.
A week after arriving in Nashville, we set off on our first road trip of sorts, travelling three hours west to Memphis. People had joked with us when we told them we were going there next about how it is one of the most dangerous cities in the US and we’d need some luck to make it out again safe and sound. We then made the mistake of looking it up on the internet so that by the time we did arrive, we were all feeling a bit tense about it. I’d booked a hotel near Graceland so that we could get there easily and I tell you, they did a fantastic job with their photos on the site. We had an interstate on one side and a cement factory on the other but curiously, neither of those details is included in the sales blurb on the booking site 😉 Here’s a pic of the view from our window for you to get the idea.
Our room was pleasant enough though and everyone was really friendly so yes, it was functional but it served its purpose for two nights. We ventured into Memphis the first night to eat out and apart from a very persistent but friendly panhandler, we survived! It was very similar to other cities we’ve been in the UK and we adapted fairly quickly. It was very different from the atmosphere in Nashville, a bit more edgy I guess but I think that was to be expected.
So the next day, we went to Graceland which was the main point of the trip to Memphis and somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. It was a real operation, starting with the price! We then had to wait for a shuttle bus to take our tour group across the road (!) and while we waited in line, we all had to have our photos taken in case we wanted to spend $40 later on a souvenir photo pack. We were given iPad audio tours and eventually made it across the road to the home of Elvis Presley. We had no time to take a photo outside before being hurried inside to start the tour of the mansion. It made me sad to see the big tourist operation that this visit has become. I enjoyed the visit in that I liked hearing the story behind the house and the life Elvis had lived inside it but I didn’t like being herded along with no time to appreciate the finer aspects at my leisure. When we went back across the road, every exhibit we went in brought us out into another shop as well. Apparently, in 2011, Elvis was one of the top three grossing celebrities who have passed away which for me, says it all. I wouldn’t have missed the experience but I think it could have been so much better.
And so we reached our last night and we wanted to do something really special so we saw that there was a live band on at BB King’s Blues Bar on Beale Street so off we went. We had a great table, right next to another British couple (shut up!) and we sang along to a whole host of our favourite soul songs. It was such a great way to finish our holiday and a memorable way too. I can’t recommend this trip highly enough as I hope you can tell 🙂
The week or so since we’ve been back has been crazy for me so I wanted to share the highlights with you. Firstly, I went to the London Book Fair on Tuesday. It was a great, if exhausting day and I attended lots of useful seminars and met up with some other lovely authors.
I was just about recovering from this by Friday when I attended the Indie Author Book Fair organised by the Alliance of Independent Authors as part of Indie Recon 2015. Along with about 60 other indie authors, I had a stand at Foyles Bookshop in the Charing Cross Road in Central London. It was a wonderful occasion and really busy, giving us all the chance to engage with readers face-to-face and to draw strength from each other. I was scared to death beforehand but I’m so glad I went and once it started, I just got talking and then I was fine! So here’s a couple of photos of me and my stall.
As a result of my sale last week and the great success of the Indie Author Fair, I have had a good number of sales this week and today, I found out that this had all pushed me into the the Amazon Top 100 Bestsellers’ List for Romance Literary Fiction. I might have only been there briefly but for me, it was the crowning glory to a wonderful couple of weeks 🙂 Wishing you all a great week and thanks for reading, as always.