Happy book birthday to LynDee Walker! Buried Leads launched this morning, and it is already shooting up the Amazon charts. Hop on that train early. Then, when it becomes a movie, you can roll your eyes at all the people who are only just getting into it after it’s earned Emma Stone an Academy Award. (I’m casting Emma as Nichelle. Who would you cast?)
I will be in Boston in 3 days, and I can hardly believe that. Several of you have asked where the Cozy Cat Press booth will be. I don’t have an answer to that yet. We will get our placement at 7am on Saturday. Until then, all I can tell you is that we will be in Copley Square, surrounded by books, booksellers, and book writers. The first person who comes up to me and yells, “TWO IF BY SEA!” gets a special copy of TIARA TROUBLE. I am so into this whole Boston thing, you have no idea.
I will be tweeting from Boston, so follow @lanelese for details as they develop. I know my publisher will be tweeting, too. Follow @CozyCatPress and you’ll be in the know on all things Cozy Cat Press related.
Now, I have to share an anecdote.
I was telling an acquaintance about TIARA TROUBLE, and gave her a bookmark. We have a bit of a language barrier, so she understood that I had written a book, and that I was heading to Boston for the Boston Book Festival, but she misunderstood that my book was fiction. She thought I had written a memoir and was so upset for me that my friends had died. She also thought I was telling her that my actual first name was Tiara, and I had been in Trouble.
She was very concerned, and then, I think she felt a little gypped when I explained the situation as it actually is.
It’s going to take some doing to top this as my favorite book story, so far. I expect big things, Boston. Big.
If you like fast-paced, down home, hot as the Georgia asphalt mysteries, then you need to meet Larissa Reinhart, who brings us Cherry Tucker’s world of Halo, Georgia. With her third book releasing in November, and the fourth being written right now, I thought it was a good time to sit down and have a sweet tea with Larissa.
The Outside Lane: I read your books out of order because I am a big fan of Brunswick Stew. It was very easy to pick up on your characters and their shared histories. With book 3 coming soon, and an anthology on the way, how are you bringing brand new readers up to date on Cherry Tucker?
Larissa Reinhart: Thanks Lane for having me! I’ve enjoyed getting to know you on Facebook and through my buddy LynDee Walker.
To answer your question, I think it’s tricky. I’m working on book 4 now and I try to keep character histories to a few sentences that can wrap up their relationship to Cherry without revealing too much about what’s happened in previous books. And do it in a humorous way. I kind of like the challenge. I’ll give you an example from Hijack in Abstract, book 3:
“Calling Shawna Branson an artist is like calling Ronald McDonald the King of Steaks.” Shawna Branson and I’ve hated each other since the days when we all hung out at the Tasty Dip. When I found out she was sharing her sprinkles with my boyfriend, I wrote her number on the men’s room wall. Accompanied by an explicit drawing of Shawna’s talents. Pretty good rendering for a cement block wall and a Sharpie. Instead of throwing a hissy, she should have thanked me for making her so popular.
TOL: I grew up in and around small towns in Alabama, Georgia, and Texas, and loved how true to form Halo and Sidewinder are. How did you create those towns, and their inhabitants.
LR: I grew up in small towns, too. There’s some universal qualities to country folk, I think. Wonderful characters. I believe where life seems simpler, it’s easier to distill everything into black and white. You can find salt of the earth generosity living next to some truly shiftless S.O.B.s. And because everyone’s life is exposed through the community grapevine, we all know who’s the angel and who’s the S.O.B. And they know it, too. Makes for interesting drama.
TOL: Cherry’s love life doesn’t seem to be going so well. Do you have a romance plotted out for her, or are you looking to see where the spirit takes you? (CherBear! –oooh, look, the spirit!)
LR: The romance is the hardest part for me. I thought I had some things plotted out, but she took me in a whole different direction. Cherry’s not ready to settle down. She needs to resolve her mother issues first. And because that’s a mystery I’m threading through the books, I feel like she should be able to sow a few oats. Without getting slutty. She’s got a big heart and there’s a lot of love for the three men in her life. She keeps veering back to Luke, but Todd’s always there for her and lately, Max, too. I really am not sure what she’s going to do. It distresses me. I’d rather write the action scenes.
By the way, my friend Terri L. Austin is a huge CherBear fan, too. Asone of my beta readers, Terri tries to strongly encourage Cherry in that relationship. She’s a bad influence.
TOL: Let’s talk anthology. Tell us about the process of writing an individual novella in tandem with two other writers. It’s got to be like sewing plaid. How do you make the lines match up?
LR: IT IS SO MUCH FUN! In the beginning, there was a flurry of emails about Memphis and the Heartache Motel. Not even story ideas, just random thoughts about Graceland, Elvis, and this crappy motel and how we would work it into a story. We’d send each other funny pictures (eventually they became a Pinterest board). I can’t even remember how we settled on Memphis. Or how these drag queens entered the picture. Terri L. Austin, LynDee Walker, and I can get a little goofy. But at some point, we just started writing and then began sending descriptions of the motel back and forth to each other. We’d just add in something mentioned in the other books. But the stories are so different, which is cool. I loved using all the Elvis references.
TOL: So you’ve written the book, sold the book, revised the book, published the book, and…what’s the most fun for you in the process?
LR: I like editing. I edit as I write. Once I get going, writing is fun, particularly when the unexpected happens. But editing is very soothing. I like playing around with words.
TOL: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from the first and second releases, to your upcoming third and fourth? What would you tell authors who are hoping for the same sort of success?
LR: You know, I’m not sure. Each time it’s been different. My first two releases were just before major holiday weekends, which my publisher has since learned is a bad idea. Not many books are sold during Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. Everyone’s too busy grilling. So I have no idea what an early November and early December release will be like. I also have deadlines for other books near my launches, so usually I’m just trying to get through the launch.
My release for Still Life in Brunswick Stew was insane because it was the last week of school (I have an eight and ten year old) and I was room mom. And my dog went missing on launch day. And my friends from Minnesota were coming down for the weekend to stay with me. And I had to plan and work the end-of-school-year party for the whole fourth grade. I had two signings. Plus the start of a blog tour.
I have almost no memory of that week. Not until Saturday night, I sat around my patio with my friends and a bottle of champagne while we watched Brunswick Stew climb up the Amazon bestseller charts. That was pretty darn cool!
I am praying my next release is more relaxing. So, in response to your question, my advice would be, don’t plan anything else for your launch week. Especially not end-of-school-year-parties. Unless you enjoy nervous breakdowns.
TOL: What do you like to read?
LR: Everything! I’m not stuck on any one genre. I tend to find an author I like, then read everything they’ve published, then move on to another author. It could be mysteries, paranormal, romance, Young Adult, thrillers, horror, literary fiction, classics. I really react to voice more than anything else. I went through a Thomas Hardy phase some years back when I wasn’t even in school. Couldn’t get enough of Thomas Hardy. Then I moved on. It’s like a sickness. I do the same thing with TV shows since the invention of Netflix and Video on Demand.
TOL: Thank you so much, Larissa! Here’s hoping HIJACK IN ABSTRACT is your biggest seller yet!
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!
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.”)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
LynDee Walker’s new book, Buried Leads, is due out in October. I am very excited to start talking about it, but you’re going to have to wait just a little longer–ee! Meanwhile, I had the great pleasure of meeting LynDee’s editor, Kendel Flaum, and thought you’d enjoy hearing from her. As the managing editor of Henery Press, she has great insight and is, of course, very interesting.
But don’t just take my word for it. This is Kendel’s bio:
Kendel Flaum is a Southern California native who now parks her flip flops in Dallas, Texas. Deciding to combine her fifteen years of entrepreneurial savvy and over a decade of designing, writing, and editorial experience, she launched Henery Press, an independent publishing house focused on mystery and suspense. As managing editor, she’s always looking for captivating stories — from cozies and crime capers to paranormals and PIs. She’s got a coop full of award-winners and nominees in the Hen House, and just loves finding a gem in the slush pile.
Q) I love the story of how Henery Press came to be. Will you please tell it for our audience?
Let me nutshell it for your readers: It started from a love of writing. Which led me to an amazing organization, Sisters in Crime, and its upstart sub-chapter, the Guppies. I met my mentor there, I met my bff there, and I met 500+ mystery writers looking to be published there. After several years, Diane Vallere, the aforementioned bff, and I decided to create a sub-chapter of the Guppies called called Press Quest where we’d spearhead the efforts to compile information on every mid-to-small-to boutique press open to mystery writers. We researched until our fingers cramped – we detailed lists, facts, databases, interviews, websites, and on-the-ground commentary.
Some of that commentary proved scary: contracts that fell apart, offers to publish in weeks (weeks! oy.), cringe-worthy covers, non-existent support. After years of being in the trenches, writing, editing, designing, I decided there had to be a better way. One with a chicken at the helm. (Side note: In a previous life, I spent over fifteen years building a completely separate business from dollar one into a multi-million dollar company, so I knew what it would take.)
That’s some nutshell.
Q) When we met, we talked about how covers sell books. The cover art coming out of Henery is every kind of eye-catching, captivating, and charming. Who creates the art, and how do you fit the art to the book?
Why, thank you for the kind words! I absolutely believe the cover is essential to the book, everyone likes to see a pretty package. We consult with the author to get their take, then meet with the in-house staff to discuss. Once we have a concept, we’ll either design here or hire freelance – or both.
Q) What are the most challenging, and the most delightful aspects of your work?
The nuts and bolts of publishing can be the most challenging, probably because it’s not as much fun as engaging artwork and intriguing editorial. It’s also quite a challenge to find manuscripts – our catalog has limited space (about 2 books per month), and we’re building quite a niche in the mystery market.
Q) A good editor can help an author craft a decent manuscript into a great book. How do help an author on the edge of greatness make that leap?
Agreed, an editor can see things the author can’t. Mostly because the author has read the manuscript about 113 times. I’d say the most useful tool in the box is remembering “less is more.” Truly, tighten, tighten, tighten. Keep the dialog snappy, the scenes vivid, and the narrative on point. And when if your beta readers all love your work, you need new betas.You need the beta who enjoys your writing, but dishes out the sharp critiques. Like you said, it’s turning decent into great.
Q) How can an author make an editor’s job easier?
Don’t forgo the beta/editor stage when writing the second, third, fourth books. When you wrote your first, it probably went through 57 drafts, plus a multitude of critiques, contests, betas, and revisions. Over and over and over again until that baby sparkled. Now that you’ve sold it, and it’s published, and you’re onto the next, take the same care. Only more. Push yourself to be better, stronger. And that generally means better betas. (I’m sensing a theme…)
Q) What advice would you give to aspiring editors? Or people looking to break into publishing on the publishing house side of the industry?
Start freelancing. Even if you don’t get paid in the beginning, just to prove your work. Start with 50 page critiques, and move on from there. Read every writing book you can get your hands on, read lots of genres to understand techniques. Then grab an internship if you can find one. Nothing like learning from the inside.
Q) What was your favorite book growing up?
Just one? I’m torn between A Wrinkle in Time, Charlotte’s Web, Little Women, and The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot.
Lane, thank you so much for having me. It was a delight to meet you in person, and an honor to be featured on your blog!