Posted in books, Career, continuing education, Cozy Cat Press, Destinee Faith Miller Mystery, Explaining the Strange Behavior, School, The Book, Thor, Tiara Trouble, writing

Terrifying Tiara Trouble and Thanks


I have great news!  TIARA TROUBLE, the first in the Destinee Faith Miller Mystery series, will be available for purchase on 10/28/2013.  Eee!

TiaraTroubleEbook

And that’s the cover, right there!  All Destinee’d up with her signature pink and zebra.  You knew Destinee’s signature colors were pink, black, and zebra, right?  Unlike her trampy arch-nemesis, Tishelle Tucker, whose signature colors are red, black, and leopard.

So, now with a release date set, and behind the scenes plans going into action, I will admit to you that I am scared.  What if it flops?  What if people hate it?  Why did I write so many words?  Is anyone going to get my sense of humor?  What if I’m not a good writer?

A lot of what-ifs, people.  Ultimately, if it flops, it flops, and if people hate it, they hate it.  I wrote so many words because they seemed necessary at the time, and if I continued to second guess myself, it would have been whittled down to the length of a magazine article.  If no one gets my sense of humor, that’s fine–like that hasn’t happened before.  I’m okay with the sound of crickets.  And, I know I write well.  Whether, or not other people agree that I write novels well is yet to be seen.

I think I got so used to people telling me that I wasn’t ever living up to my fullest potential that I never think my efforts are my best.  Or, maybe I’m afraid they are.  And if they are, what does that mean?  Does that mean I am not the rare Sparklefly my mother thinks I am?!

I think about that a lot when it comes to how I parent.  I see a lot of myself in Thor.  He is an exceptionally smart child, and he is an exceptionally creative daydreamer–those two things don’t add up to Straight A Student.  That doesn’t mean he isn’t living up to his fullest potential, though.  That means that this is his groove.

Grades don’t show potential.  Grades show self-discipline.  Kind of like being an accomplished musician is different from being a talented musician.  You can be taught to play anything.  You can’t be taught to create.  What is ideal is when you have the self-discipline to make the grades, and the potential to turn that self-discipline/learning into something.

I tell Thor that he must strive for excellence.  I expect him to try his hardest, and not give up.  I don’t expect him to make perfect scores, but I expect him to work toward getting things right–he should want to get things right.  I don’t expect him to be the top of his class, all honors, everybody’s all-American.  I expect him to fully utilize his resources, and do the work.  Where he lands, he lands.*

I have, and will continue to impress upon him that education/school is what gives you the tools to build a future.  Does he want a brain that is like the little pig who built his house out of straw, or does he want a brain that is like the little pig who built his house out of bricks?  Well, he has to have to right tools to build the kind of brain he wants, and the right tools are often heavy and take more effort to lift.

Writing this, I am thinking about the wonderful teachers I had, who outweighed the awful ones.  Good teachers are brain-tool salesmen, who make you think you can’t live without knowing how to parse a sentence, or solve a quadratic equation.  You just have to have that ability to name the colors in the rainbow!  You absolutely MUST get in on that ability to recite the Gettysburg Address!  You cannot possibly go another day without reading The Scarlet Letter!  Because good teachers get you to buy in to the mental body building it takes to wield the tools, and the stamina necessary to keep going.

It isn’t necessary to be a sparklefly.  Sparklefly is only good for so much.  But it is necessary to build a solid foundation and the self-discipline to put that foundation to work.  Enough elbow grease can shine up an ordinary fly to look sparkly.

I worked hard at TIARA TROUBLE, and I’m not going to lie and tell you I didn’t on the chance that it fails.  You know, so I could say, “Well, it’s not like it was my best effort.”  I honestly don’t know what my best effort looks like.  All I can tell you is that I worked very hard and I am proud of the result, and I really hope you like it.  I hope it makes you laugh.  I like it.  I’ve had to read it about 60 times now, and I still make myself laugh.

So, thank you Mrs. Farr, Mrs. Mendina, Dr. Chaisson, Dr. Morris, Mrs. Monroe, Mrs. Anderson, Mr. Cargile, Mrs. Mack, and Mrs. Barnes.  You were excellent brain-tool salespeople, and the fact that I am a functioning adult, much less a published author at all is a credit to your mad skillz.

 

*There is no Tiger to this Mom.  That might not be something to be proud of, I don’t know.  I guess I’ll find out in about 20 years.

 

 

Posted in books, guest article, writing

Interview with the Author: The Second Time Around with LynDee Walker


I know you’re all looking forward to LynDee Walker’s latest installment of the Nichelle Clarke Headlines in Heels Mysteries, but you have to wait just a wee bit longer.  I didn’t have to–bragging.

I already know how it ends.  Ha!  You're going to love it.
I already know how it ends. Ha! You’re going to love it.

However, as much as I have enjoyed my Advanced Reader Copy of BURIED LEADS, I can’t tell you what happens.  I can tell you that LynDee’s series is only getting stronger, and I asked if she would come talk to us about what it’s like the second time around.

Q:  So, LynDee, what differs from the release of your first book to your second?

A:  Not much, that I can see, except I have readers who know who I am. The first time, I was really nobody from nowhere. I wondered what kind of reception Nichelle would get from readers, but it was all theoretical, because no one had ever heard of either of us.

This time, there are people who read Front Page Fatality and really enjoyed it, and they’re waiting for Buried Leads to launch. It’s a little wild for me to wrap my head around the fact that there’s even one reader who’s not in my immediate circle who is waiting for my book to launch. And it’s really cool.

She looks good with a Sharpie!  LynDee signing books for her fans.
She looks good with a Sharpie! LynDee signing books for her fans.  She might have been new with Front Page Fatality, but now she’s got masses of adoring readers.

 

Q:  What do you know, going into the second release, that you wish you’d known with the first?

A:  That an author can only do so much. I’m a control freak, and I planned everything and booked blogs months in advance. And don’t get me wrong, it helps. A lot. And I think as an author you have to put that effort in (and I am doing it for Buried Leads, though I do have a tour organizer and my fantabulous Henery Press marketing folks taking care of a lot of the blog tour stuff this time). But you have to understand that you can write guest blog posts until your fingers fall off and it will not magically make you JK Rowling.

In the end, the very best thing that can happen is that you do the work, and then the retailers decide to help you.

 

Q:  What role does your editor play in getting your book shelf-ready?

A:  Oh, I could go on forever about this. But I won’t, because my editor would  slap my hand. I am blessed to have an editor who really gets Nichelle and understands what I want my stories to be. That is so, so important in this business.

She is brilliant and very good at her job, and she sees things in the books that don’t come across the way I intended and offers suggestions to make them better. But she listens to me. If I say, “wait, that’s important later,” or “I adore that character, how can I keep him?” she brainstorms with me and we figure it out together. I love the feeling of teamwork, and knowing that she cares about my career.

And all that “tightly written, fast-paced” praise I get? That’d be because my editor is a master of trimming and speeding the story without losing anything. One of the things I love most about working with her is that she’s teaching me to be a better writer.

Here we are with LynDee's poster.  And you thought the cover art was cute on its own?  I want my LIFE to look like this poster.
The most fun of book releases is meeting people, LynDee says.

 

Q:  Now that you are releasing book 2, writing book 3, and are involved in a couple of other Nichelle mini-novels, what advice would you give writers who are looking for the big break?

A:  Why, Miss Lane, I think we had this discussion very recently, didn’t we? [Yes!  Which is why I want TOL readers to hear it from you! Lane] Here it is, y’all, as crazy as it sounds: enjoy writing just for the love of writing. It should always be true, in my opinion, but it’s easy for that to get lost in the pressure of deadlines and edits and marketing after you have a contract (or three). I owe my friend Gretchen McNeil thanks for telling me that about a year before Front Page sold, and now I have paid it forward. Your days of editors and deadlines and reviews will come in their own time. If you’re a writer, it’s part of who you are. Take joy in sitting down and creating.

 

Q:  Tell us about the audio books.

A: *Squeals* That was the most amazing thing yet! I think. Maybe tied with that amazon #1. But really: an actress (no, I do not know who yet) is going to read my books out loud. Holy crow. All I really know about it right now is that the rights to both Front Page and Buried Leads have sold, and as the production process moves along, we’ll have more information on the narrator and release dates.

 

Q:   What is the most fun part of the book release?

A:  Meeting people. Getting to know different folks was always my favorite part of being a reporter, and whether it’s online or at a signing, meeting people—readers, other authors, bloggers, booksellers—is my favorite part of this, too.

lyndee reads

Q:  Tell us where your release is going to happen, and why that is awesome.

A:  It IS awesome! The Buried Leads launch party is part of this year’s Virginia Literary Festival! I am just over the moon about this opportunity. The people who organize the festival are amazing, and it’s such a great event. And and AND, we’re launching this book at the Library of Virginia, which is a breathtaking building that houses the state’s most important historical document collections. In Virginia, that’s some pretty amazing stuff. Nichelle would be honored to be so close to that much history.

Thank you so much for stopping by to chat, LynDee.  I know everyone is very excited to get Buried Leads.  It is available for pre-order now.

 

Posted in A Day in the Life, books, writing

Write This Way


Until I started to write this blog entry, I had forgotten how much I loved Bill Fitzhugh’s book, Pest Control.  It is, hands down, one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.  It also got me a date.  See, I bought it, then went into the B&N cafe to start reading it (as was my wont back in the college days) and I started giggling out loud.  The laughter caught the attention of a fellow bookworm, who struck up a conversation and asked me out.

That dating relationship lasted somewhat longer than the “romance” that blossomed in my psychologist’s office around the same time, but was no less strange.  Oh, the stories I have to tell, People.  The stories I have to tell.

Anyway, Bill Fitzhugh.  Hilarious.  Look him up.  Organ Grinders is another great work of his.

I remembered Fitzhugh because I had forgotten a large part of an interview I read that involved him.  I’m getting there.  Stay with me.  I can’t remember if it was Fitzhugh being interviewed, or someone else being interviewed who mentioned him, but the long and short of it was that one author had worked his arse off trying to get published and there had been some hijinks about renting an ice cream cone costume to try to get his manuscript into the hands of an agent/publisher/something, and one author just sent in a manuscript and was published and famous the next day.  It was an anecdote about how fickle the publishing industry is–any industry that relies on public consumption, really.

Is it who you know?  Or how good you are at what you do?  Or just happening to be where lightning strikes?  Or what?  JK Rowling and EL James are both names you’d recognize, but took very different pathways to their success.  And seriously?  How depressing must that be for some writers?  I mean, Rowling is a demi-god, who should stand in the Pantheon with Lewis and Tolkien (sacrilege?  I think not.)  You can be okay with never achieving her level of success because–look at her body of work!  James is… a very different story.  Although, it makes you feel better about your chances at being struck by lightning, it might make you feel a lot worse about rejection notices.

Everyone goes about it differently.  There isn’t any set way.  The only things that are certain are that you must have the mental energy to finish a manuscript, the willingness to put it out there for criticism, the ability to accept rejection, a thick enough skin to live around the people who hate it, and the optimism, self-confidence and mental energy to do it all over again until lightning strikes.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

It’s funny how many of my friends are writers.  I didn’t go looking for writer friends.  We all just sort of ended up in the same places (LiveJournal, TTP, Facebook–places where you can write) excited about the same things.  We work together, most of us, to help each other along. 

And that’s good, because while I am totally into the idea of wearing an ice cream cone costume, I am exhausted by the idea of printing out so many pages of work and hulking them around everywhere.

Posted in writing

Writer’s Block Backwards


I am currently surrounded by a mass of post-it notes, none of which are helping me plot out my latest idea.  That’s all right.  It’s a very dark story and I can only hold dark for so long before I start trying to bring in a clown.  I’m always wanting to add in Mercutio–the only redeeming factor to Romeo & Juliet for me.

I am never in a state of creative happy medium.  The fields are either full or fallow, with nothing in between.  It’s like I can only sow magic beans that all crop up overnight–no growth stages.  Right now, I am having a hard time with various ideas competing for attention.  So, I’ve done what is easiest first, and keep going back and forth between it and my serial killer story (see above–dark.)

I have finally plotted out a novel based on my first trip to NYC, which includes all the highlights of mistaken identity (more than once), a midnight train to DC, shoplifting (not by me!), fraud (not by me!), an attempted mugging (sadly, of me), drug requests (hilarious OF me) and offers (to me–SPOILER–I just said no), vandalism and tresspassing (is it mine if I didn’t know I was doing it?), terrifying gangster boys, unbelievably stereotypical mafia boys (really!), a doppleganger, an MTV veejay, a break in, ticket scalping, a chase through the underground, a few slaps in the face (literal, and also my face), a police chase, a visit to Snow (in case it goes bad, you always go to Snow), a missing staircase, a landlord meltdown, a homeless man’s sacrifice, a hotel shower, a David Lynch movie (like this whole thing wasn’t one), a probable murder, and a decision to go home.  Because my life has always been stranger than fiction.

The follow up novel will be based on my coach tour of Europe, and will include more of the same, only this time with more tourist attractions, drunken Australians, lecherous tour guides, and cute Italian boys.  And the flu.  The flu will be its own character.

The hard part is weaving a thread through it all, so the stories aren’t just a collection of things that happened to me on my way to the Colosseum, so to speak.

And maybe I’ll finish it off as a trilogy, novelizing my unfortunate incarceration.  8 hours in the clink ought to be worth a few thousand words.

 

Posted in writing

Mothers and Daughters


I’ve started watching Veronica Mars, only a decade after it premiered.  Well, close to a decade.  I’m enjoying it thoroughly, and I am looking forward to the movie now.  I want to see what a grown-up Veronica looks like.  Even if she does follow the Disney trope of heroine-without-a-mom, she’s bang up awesome.

I finished the first draft of my novel, and am proud to tell you that it more than passes the Bechdel Test.  I am also proud to tell you that my heroine a) has a supportive, close-knit family, b) has a supportive, close knit group of girlfriends, c) has a healthy self-image, and d) has a clear understanding of what drives her romantically.  She also has a good relationship with her mother, something we don’t see a lot of in female driven art.

After Destinee survives a car bombing, she and her concussion go home with her parents to rest in safety.

I snuggled up under Mother’s duvet and tried to sleep, but my wounded brain wouldn’t stop thinking.  I kept trying to make all the pieces fit.  Insurance, and romance, and murder.  Terrible.  And my business.  My business!  I sat straight up, my head seeming to take a long time to follow the rest of me, and for a second I thought I had gone blind.  For more than a second.  I groped around in darkness and cried out for my mother, whose hand came out of nowhere to pet me.

“I’m right here, Sugar,” she said, her voice full of wakeful alarm.

“Where?!  I can’t see!  I’m blind!”

When she laughed, I got mad.  “I am blind, Mother!  It’s not funny!  I can’t see!”

She was still laughing when she flicked on the bedside lamp, really deep, belly laughs.  After a minute, I saw what was so funny.  It had been early afternoon when I’d gotten into Mother’s bed, and now it was just past midnight.  All that time I thought I had been thinking and not sleeping, I had actually been sleeping and dreaming.  Whereas I thought only about fifteen minutes had passed, it was the whole day.  I wasn’t blind, I was just in the dark.

Mother kept laughing until she woke up Daddy, who was sleeping on chaise lounge in their bedroom and he asked what was going on.  She tried to explain, but apparently all her worry for me had manifested in hysterical laughter, so I said, my voice sounding a little huffier than I intended, “Mother is laughing at me because I woke up in the dark, and I thought I had gone blind.”

Daddy snickered.  “What?”

I repeated myself, and by the time I got to the last part of the sentence, I was giggling, too.  Pretty soon, the three of us were all laughing, trying to keep our voices down, but I’ll tell you what—I know all three of us were just so glad to have me alive that nothing else really mattered right that second. 

When we finally all settled back down, Mother spooned me up close and sang to me softly, just like she had when I was a baby.  Y’all, I love my mother.  I love my daddy, and my brother, and my granny, but I truly love my mother.  We fight like cats and dogs sometimes, and no one can make me as crazy as she can, but I love her more than anything.  She is special, and she is mine, and even though I’d nearly died the day before, I felt like the luckiest girl alive.

That’s how I feel about my own mother.  I don’t think anyone can make a woman as crazy as her mother can, but when you have a good mother, there is no one who will ever love you as much.  I am extremely fortunate to have a good mother, and every crazy-making moment is balanced out by how fiercely she loves me.  She is loyal, and faithful, and I can count on her.  There is not another person alive as dependable as my mother. 

A little later, Destinee has this to say: “That was all I needed to hear because if my mother says I am going to be all right, then I would defy God himself to tell her otherwise.”

I’m letting the story settle, then I have rewrites.  My goal is to have it ready to submit for queries by the end of summer.  Let’s hope I can keep a lid on it that long, and I don’t end up sharing 3/4s of it on this blog alone.  Problem is, I really like Destinee and think she’s a lot of fun.  I want to tell you all her story.