YOU Light Up My Life

Thank you for making my dream come true.  Without you, I wouldn't have needed to sign any books!
Thank you for making my dream come true. Without you, I wouldn’t have needed to sign any books!

Today was a dream come true, and I owe that entirely to the kindness and love of friends and family.  I walked in to Barnes & Noble and set up my table with 25 books, and I left with no books.  22 had sold, and 3 were going on an end-cap to sell later.  My wonderful, wonderful People had come in and made me look like I was a New York Times Best Selling Author.  By the time I was packing up to leave, my table was gloriously bare.

YOU, friends and family, made this event a success, and I don’t know how to thank you all other than to just keep telling everyone how amazing you are.

The tiaras were a big hit, and I was pretty excited when the book sellers wanted to wear them, too.  I think everyone could use a little sparkle.  B even wore one for a split second, but refused to be photographed.

I think the biggest hit for me was the official B&N poster with my big face on it.  As soon as the event was over, I walked right next door to the Michael’s there and headed back to the framing section.  In two weeks, I’ll have an official B&N poster with my big face on it to hang somewhere in my house.  Where, I have no idea.  I can’t very well hang it over the fireplace.  I have to at least pretend to have some modesty and humility about me.

Next week is the Boston Book Festival, then the book signing at my alma mater, the University of Texas at Arlington, and then I’ll be going on blog tours.  I’ve been prepping interviews and guest posts for those, and I hope you’re going to enjoy reading what I’ve had to say.  I’m trying to make sure there is something new for you to read at every stop, and making sure you haven’t read it here first.  That’s not easy!  I always want to share it with you first.

Once all that is done, it’s nose to the grindstone to finish MISS MAYHEM, and then I need to get to work on Destinee’s final book in the series.  I’ve already decided she’s going to have some competition from Texas in book 3.  I’ll keep you posted.  Meanwhile…

Official B&N sign with my big face on it. Thank you, Linda, for taking these photos.
Official B&N sign with my big face on it.
Thank you, Linda, for taking these photos.



Sneak Peek. Literally.

I told you earlier that Destinee and I are not much alike.  However, some of my life experiences are just too much fun not to pass along to her.  Leslieann, Karen, Renae, and most unfortunately, Leslieann’s ex-husband can tell you the version of this story that happened to me.  But here’s how it played out for our favorite Beauty Queen:

I knocked at the restroom door, and no one answered, so I opened it a hair and shimmied in.  No need to expose the whole room to the toilet, so perfectly framed by the doorway.  Shutting it behind me, I carried my clutch over to the sink and took out my lip gloss.  I find that when I am not feeling myself, just having a moment in front of a mirror with a good lip gloss can turn my mood completely around.

I don’t know why that is.  I suppose it might be because I feel fully in control of my makeup.  I know I can paint myself up to look like anything I want, and when I feel out of control in every other arena, I find comfort in my travel kit.

For just a minute or two, I let myself get lost in following the lines of my lips with the fuzzy applicator.  My heart rate calming as I watched them fill out and plump up with the cayenne in the gloss I was using.  When I felt a little better, I put everything back into my bag and thought I should probably spend the extra few seconds it would take to avail myself of the facilities.  I had been drinking water all day, and with the schedule I keep, it’s not always easy to take a break.

I took the two steps up to the toilet and laid my clutch down on the back of it, then did as one does in such a situation.  I was midway to full relief when a motion caught my eye and I realized the doorknob was jiggling.  “Occupied,” I called out, but the knob kept turning.

I just knew it would stop because I was sure I had locked it, but to my horror, I watched it continue to turn and then the door swung wide open.  In a heartbeat, I found myself looking out over Bobbie’s wedding reception from a toilet on a platform about four feet off the ground, and then realized that Bobbie’s wedding reception was looking straight on at me.  Do you know what is eye level to the average bear when someone is sitting on a toilet that is built up on a platform about four feet off the ground?

There I was, on the proverbial throne with Victoria’s Secret down around my ankles, and my own secret flashing the groom himself.  I squealed and slammed my knees together so hard and so fast, I bruised them both, calling, “Hey!  Shut the door!”

Glenwood, Glue, and Eating Beads

You know that Gavin Degraw song, Chariot?  I always thought he was singing Carrion, not Chariot.  Changes the whole song when you know that.  I am the Queen of Misheard Lyrics.  You get one little word wrong…

Along with the marketing I’ve done, I dropped notes to a few of my former alma maters (there are nine or eleven, depending upon whether, or not you count colleges) to share news of the release.  The one I least expected to hear back from was my original elementary school, Glenwood School, in Phenix City, Alabama.  TIARA TROUBLE is set in Phenix City, and one of the tiny characters is very, very, very loosely based around my experience representing the school at the Little Miss PC pageant.  I got the happiest surprise today to find that not only did they respond to my email, but the respondent was a classmate!  She said she remembered me vividly, which is worrisome, but it is nice to be remembered at all, non?

It made me think about what my most vivid memories of Kinder and First Grade are.  Funnily enough, my classmate mentioned a boy who plays a role in one of those memories.  As I told her, I remember that boy walking into my classroom and thinking, “Oh yeah!”  I was going to make him my boyfriend.  I thought he was adorable, and I was so glad he was in my class.  I wasn’t even six years old, people.  Turned out, he was in the wrong class, so I only got to see him on the playground.  He did not share my feelings of kinderlove, and did not enjoy being chased.

Another vivid memory is of being dropped off at the school early one morning, and going out on the playground (by myself) to find that someone had torn out the pages of what must have been a Hustler magazine and strewn photos of naked women all over the place.  I went around collecting, considering, and discarding my finds, very, very confused by the amount of hair I was seeing, but more concerned that all these women seemed to think it was fine to wear shoes, socks, and sun visors (or terry cloth sweatbands) but nothing else.  I mean, if you’re going to be naked, take off your shoes.  I spent the next few weeks doodling naked ladies in my spiral notebook, drawing them with massive afros in their crotchal regions.  My mother found my drawings and we had to have A Very Serious Talk.  I promised to stop drawing naked ladies, but was so fascinated by her horror that I kept at it until I got A Very Serious Spanking.  After that, I only drew ladies with dresses on them.

There was the glue fight, which is my greatest memory of injustice done to me, and an excellent example of just what a stubborn little thing I was.  I had to wear orthopedic shoes for several years.  All I wanted in the world was a pair of red shoes.  Orthopedic shoes do not come in red, so when I was finally able to have a pair of normal shoes–normal red shoes–I was prouder of those than I was my own teeth.  For some reason, Mrs. Barnes left the classroom while we were working with Elmer’s Glue.  The little girl who sat behind me purposefully, and with great aim squirted glue on my New Red Shoes.  I was as livid as a 5-year-old can be.  I aimed my glue at the middle of her chest and got her good.  She did the same.  I aimed for her long, red hair.  Take that, Shoe Ruiner!  She tried and failed to get glue in my hair.  Mrs. Barnes returned, and while the other girl was telling on me, I squirted glue in her desk chair.  I think things might have been fine, but when she sat down in the glue, it was all over for me.  I spent a very long time sitting out in the hall, after talking to the principal.  My little friend?  No punishment other than glue in her pants.  I also refused to apologize.  p.s., My shoes were fine.  (To be fair, I probably started it by saying something smart.  I just don’t remember that part.)

I did spend a lot of time sitting out in the hall for talking in class.  I remember thinking that if I could just get a dog costume, I could put it on and crawl out of the school, and no one would ever know.  Maybe the principal would even pat my head and try to give me a treat?  So I spent most of my hall time, trying to conceive of where to find myself that dog costume, and how to conceal it on my person for such occasions.

My last memory of First Grade happened the last day of school.  I was standing with a friend, talking about how we were leaving Alabama, and moving to Virginia.  I was sad and scared, and she was sympathetic.  She also had tiny beads on her shirt that looked like candy sprinkles.  She suggested we pick them off and eat them to make ourselves feel better.  So, we did.  That is my very last memory of Glenwood: My granny driving up to get me, finding me eating beads off another child’s shirt.

Somehow, I managed to grow up to become a productive adult.



What I Would Tell a Daughter About Selfies

Since I’m getting emails and PMs about the girl side of things, I’ll address the girl side of things here.

So, I used to teach Sunday School for 6th Grade girls.  When I took on the responsibility, I thought I was going to be–I don’t know what I thought I was going to be teaching, but it was NOT sex.  I started reading through the lesson book, and halfway through BLAMMO sex/pregnancy/abortion.  Uh…

I worried about a few things:

  1. I would accidentally warp these children.
  2. I would say something that would make concerned parents take up pitchforks against me.
  3. That the church hadn’t thoroughly vetted my thoughts on sex/pregnancy/abortion before handing their 12 year old girls over to me.
  4. What if one of the girls had been bad-touched, or was already sexually active and I said something that made her feel like a monster?

I worried most about the pitchforks.

At the time, I was single, had never been married, had no children of my own, and  hadn’t been all the way around the block, so-to-speak.  I had been bad-touched and was sensitive to that, and I had ducked down some of the block’s back alleys.  I knew enough to be dangerous.

I knew enough to know that anything I said, could and would affect these girls for a long time, and I didn’t want to hurt any of them, and I didn’t want my words haunting them in regard to choices they might make in the future.  We all do stupid things sooner or later.  I wanted my words to be building blocks for them, not stumbling blocks.

So…I didn’t talk specifically about sex/pregnancy/abortion.  I talked about choices, redemption and the Proverbs 31 Woman.

Because here’s how I feel:  My job as an adult guiding children (or now, as a parent) is to help them learn to navigate rough waters by teaching them to reason, think, and adjust course.  My job isn’t to give them marching orders (as a parent, my job is definitely giving marching orders along with instruction on the how and why.)

So, first I wanted those girls to know that they had autonomy, and they got to choose their futures.  I wanted them to understand that good choices led to better futures, and good choices were things like eating well (I tried to touch on eating disorders because you never know), getting good exercise (because healthy bodies help promote healthy minds), doing your homework and reading for pleasure (because intelligent, educated women have a better chance to make good choices), working toward a goals in small increments (a good test, a good report card, honor roll, head of the class, etc.), and having a hobby or something fun to do, just for the love of it (because well-rounded women have their own interests.)  And, I told them to make good friends because good friends are the best things in life, and good friends will keep you out of trouble.  I have excellent friends, by the way.

Next, I wanted those girls to know that if they slipped up somewhere, it wasn’t the end of the world.  Get a bad grade?  Study harder/ask for help/do better next time.  Hurt someone’s feelings?  Apologize/learn from your mistake/don’t do it again.  Eat a whole cake by yourself?  Oof/see above.

And I told them that when they were focused on proper nutrition, their health, their studies, their hobbies, their goals, and their friendships, everything else would fall into place.  When they were well-rounded people, they would attract the right kinds of attention.  Predators are afraid of self-confident girls.  Losers don’t try to smack around Margaret Thatcher or Hillary Clinton.  No one crosses Wonder Woman–and no one ever tries to butt grab her, no matter how hot her pants are.

Then, I told them that wanting to have sex, or having sex didn’t make you a bad person.  (Pitchforks!)  I told them that purposefully hurting other people was what made a bad person.  I read them the definition of the Proverbs 31 Woman, and asked them, first, if she seemed pretty awesome.  She’s got her own house, runs a staff, dabbles in real estate, has a garden, has a fabulous wardrobe, people respect and like her… Sounds pretty good to me.  I asked them if that was a woman who seemed focused on her looks, her hair, her boyfriend, or her popularity, and I asked them to consider what it would take to have your own home/business/amazing closet.

We talked about the choices you need to make to be a spectacular, independent woman, and we talked about what might set you off course.  I told them that is why they should wait to have sex.  Because they had dreams, and plans, and goals, and wanted houses, and cars, and jobs, and careers, and having a baby before you were ready would mean putting all that on hold, or putting it aside all together.  And, I told them that an STI can really slow you down, or kill you, too.

I wanted them to understand I wasn’t trying to protect their chastity.  I was trying to teach them how to protect their ability to make choices.  Having sex too soon can rob you of your autonomy, and rob you of choices. (Then I quit teaching Sunday School because I was mentally exhausted.  I went and taught Adult Singles, thinking that because I was one, it would be easier.  Ha!)

That’s what I would tell my own daughter, repeatedly.  And when the hormones kicked in and she couldn’t hear me through the throbbing in her loins, there would be that little voice in the back of her head saying, “Guh!  I know Harry Styles is so hot!  But I don’t want to be just his back-up singer.  I want my own band!  And he can fall in love with me because I am so awesome and independent, not just because I’m fawning all over him.”

I know that because that’s what kept me off the tour buses I got invited onto.

I didn’t need AIDs or a baby.

So, when it came down to selfies, I would ask my daughter why she wanted to take them, and if they helped her further her goals/dreams/aspirations.  If they didn’t, I’d ask her what she thought they did do.  We’d talk about it, and if she didn’t come the right conclusions, I’d take away her access to cameras and stuff some cotton in my ears to muffle the wailing.  Because I’d still be the parent and you don’t let a kid drive on the wrong side of the street just because it seems like a good idea to them.



Guest Post: Killing It With LynDee Walker

LynDee Walker just came home from the Killer Nashville writers’ conference, where she was serving on panels and promoting her books.  I asked if she would sum it up for us.  What was the conference like?  What was it like to be a panelist?  What was the best thing to happen?  Keep reading to find out!


Killer Conference

by LynDee Walker

Best moment of Killer Nashville 2013: I rushed down from lunch on Friday to get set for my panel appearance, and while I was fussing with the mic and getting water, an adorable lady walked up and totally made my week.

“LynDee, I just have to tell you that I read your book before I even knew you’d be here, and I loved it,” she said. “I can’t wait for the new one to come out!”

Amazing, right? I grinned and thanked her. “Only fifty-something more days!” I said.

“I’m so glad. And what’s after that one?” she asked.

When I floated back down and could focus, I said, “well, there’s a Nichelle novella (DATELINE MEMPHIS) coming up in a Christmas anthology (HEARTACHE MOTEL) in December and then the third novel will be out in the spring.”

She was very excited about that. I, of course, gave her one of every kind of Headlines in High Heels swag I had with me and thanked her for reading.

It was a great kick off to the weekend.

This was my first trip to Music City in *cough*almost 20 years*cough* and I had a blast. Killer Nashville is a mystery writers and readers conference held every summer at the Hutton Hotel in Downtown Nashville. Let’s talk about this hotel for a sec: it’s posh. One of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed. In fact, it’s where the cast of the TV show Nashville stays when they’re in town, if that gives you an idea. Big, gorgeous rooms, comfy beds, plush robes, turndown service. It’s … nice.

I got in Thursday and hung out on the room, trying to write. For months, I’ve been talking about how much progress I’d make on my new book in Nashville because it would be quiet and I’d have a room all to myself. Guess what? It was too quiet. I ended up turning the TV on the Disney channel. I worked until the conference registration opened, and then I went down to register and found the fabulous Terri L. Austin in the lobby. She is just as funny in person as she is in her Rose Strickland mysteries, and we had a great dinner and gabfest. Romance author Shannon K. Butcher was incognito, just hanging out for the weekend (she had two massages. I was so jealous.) But it was lovely to meet her, too. She’s awesome.

Friday started with the most amazing blueberry muffin I’ve ever had (this weekend was almost as much about the food as the books) and the rest of my Hen House friends arriving: such fun to hang out with Larissa Reinhart and Gretchen Archer all weekend! My panel was up first, and it was great. Edgar-winning author (and former journalist) Steven Womack was the leader, and we were joined by three-time Pulitzer nominee Gwen Florio (she’s Nichelle’s new hero), along with Tom Wood, a 36-year veteran of the Nashville Tennesseean’s sports desk, and Eugenie West, a reporter-turned-fiction writer from Pennsylvania. The discussion spun from favorite stories to the rapidly-changing news industry to why we all decided to write fiction instead of true crime (1: too much research. I get a headache just thinking about it. 2: if there’s anything in the publishing industry that’s harder to get a deal for than novels, it’s true crime. Steve wrote one, and even with his resume, he said “I couldn’t give it away.”)

LynDee Walker (far right) and her Henery Press compatriots at Killer Nashville.
LynDee Walker (far right) and her Henery Press compatriots at Killer Nashville.

In the midst of the conference fun, I was also participating in a fundraiser for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society on my fab friend Colby Marshall’s blog. This cause, and this event, are both very close to my heart, so I dashed up to the room after my panel to reply to comments on my guest post. I was amazed to find more than 50 waiting. I took five pages of notes so I could answer everyone, wrote a long post, lost my wifi connection (thank heavens I’d copied the post) finally got it posted and dashed back down for a writing workshop and dinner.

We made a new friend, the fantastically talented Kourtney Heintz, who joined us for the rest of the week and is so smart, and such fun to hang out with, too.

We walked to a Mexican food place with dancing frogs on the roof and an Elvis shrine in the lobby and decided that with Terri, Larissa, and my Elvis-centric anthology due out for Christmas, it was a sign the place had good food. We were right. They had particularly good salsa, and this Texas girl knows good salsa.

More chatting ensued, and then I went back to the room and wrote some more. A really fun scene with Nichelle’s favorite sweet bad boy that I can’t wait for y’all to read. (I know. That’s mean. But I promise it’s worth waiting for.)

I spent Saturday morning learning so much about publishing and craft at various panels and workshops. Kourtney, Gretchen and I snuck away for lunch and sightseeing Saturday afternoon. We had a blast touring the legendary Ryman auditorium and walking along Nashville’s famed Broadway.

Saturday night I had the best dinner date: Larissa Reinhart, who is the only woman I’ve ever met who can snort gracefully, and is just as genuine and funny as her Cherry Tucker mysteries. We ate pasta and drank wine and talked until too late.

Sunday morning I got waylaid on the way to Kourtney’s cross-genre fiction panel by Tom, who regaled me with an awesome story of his early-80s interview with Stephen King. Talk about a writer’s dream! I’ve been a fan since I was in sixth grade. Definitely the experience of a lifetime.

In Kourtney’s panel I learned a ton about marketing and selling books that don’t fit into a niche, which might be very useful information someday. I laughed my way through Terri and Larissa’s panel, Funny Business, and scrambled to get last-minute signed books from the wonderful authors I met.

Ris and I capped the weekend with lunch and another gabfest, about our mystery heroines and story arcs and where it’s all going. It was great fun.

I’m glad to be home with my babies (where I can actually write!), but it was definitely a weekend to remember. Many thanks to the readers and friends old and new who made it special.