I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by creative, ambitous, interesting people, and even more fortunate that some of them are related to me–so they are stuck, and have to claim me whether they want to, or not. (Do any of you ever have flashbacks to 8th Grade English when you are writing? I am terrible with commas, and whenever I am writing I flashback to diagramming sentences on the blackboard, and start worrying about parts of speech, diagram tails, and progress reports. Clearly, I do not worry too much about rabbit trails.)
Last night, LynDee was at the Frisco Public Library for a reading and signing event, so we loaded up the SUV and trekked on over.
LynDee did a reading from Buried Leads, and I can already tell you that you’re going to want this book. How can you not love a mystery that starts with Armani shoes and–spoilers–never mind. Just get the book.
I was excited to win an ARC of the new book, and as soon as I have that in my hot little hands, I’ll tell you all about it! And by “all about it”, I mean, “absolutely nothing about it.” I’ll just tell you where to get it.
I asked LynDee, now a Top Selling author (upgraded from first-time author, y’all!), to rejoin us and talk about what it is like to have seen such major success in her freshman offering, Front Page Fatality. I am so excited for her, and I hope you’ve already bought your copy because it is truly a great read.
As I sit here wondering where the heck February and the first part of March went, I’m must say I’m reeling a bit, and ever so grateful for everything 2013 has brought. Even if it has been kind of a blur.
My eyes popped open early on January 29. Like a kid of her way to Disney World, I jolted myself out of sleep singsonging “it’s here, it’s here, the day has come!” in my head. For more years than I care to admit, I’ve daydreamed and real-dreamed about what my “book birthday” would be like. I’ve also studied and learned enough about the way book launches for debut authors with limited publicity budgets go, to have prepped myself to enjoy the day by having pretty modest expectations. As in, I’d been telling myself for weeks that if five people who’d never heard of me bought my book and liked it, I’d be very happy.
Little did I know, y’all. Oh, just how little.
My fantastic husband planned a lovely day for me: I signed preorders at the bookstore that hosted my launch party, we stopped downtown for lunch, and we even had date night.
By halfway through dinner, my book was number 41 on amazon.com’s hot new releases list in mysteries with women sleuths. At that time, I didn’t even know it was charting in humorous fiction. By Friday night, it had climbed to number one in new humor, number two (behind James Patterson) in new women sleuths, and number five in humor overall.
Can we say “head spinny?” I spent that whole weekend looking around for Rod Serling. Heck, it’s been seven weeks and I’m still looking! I haven’t seen him yet, though.
I did interviews on various blogs, one with my local ABC affiliate (I was so nervous. Lucky for me, the anchor was very nice and you can’t really tell I was nervous. Much.), and another last week with a newsmagazine. One book blog chose my book as their favorite of February, and another named it in the top 5 books of the week just this week. And I’ve gotten fan mail! Like, actual people I’ve never met have taken time out of their lives not only to read my novel, but to write me notes, telling me how much they enjoyed it. How awesome is that?
It’s been amazing. Like walking around in a dream, truly. Maybe a little overwhelming at times, but I’m just so honored and flabbergasted that people are saying such lovely things, it’s largely been one of the best months of my life.
All the while, I was trying to finish up my second Nichelle Clarke Headlines in Heels mystery, Buried Leads, and get it ready to send off to my editor. I loved getting to go back to Nichelle’s world and see how life is treating her, what has changed for her, and what kind of trouble she’s getting into now. Writing the sequel was like getting to know an old friend better, and I’m so, so glad I get to write more books about Nichelle and her friends, because I adore her and am still not ready to say goodbye to her.
Getting Buried Leads ready to turn in was an entirely new experience for me, though. I’d never written fiction with a deadline, and I’d also never have dreamed of sending a manuscript to an editor after one pass through my betas, two reads after the rough draft.
But I did. Then I started immediately on Nichelle’s Christmas adventure, a novella slated for publication this December.
Last week, I got my edit letter on Buried Leads. As usual, my editor is brilliant, and saw something I could change that will make it a much better book. It’s also a major revision, though, and I panicked a little, because I have other works under contract with deadlines.
Fortunately for me, this revision has fallen into place such that I’m scratching my head wondering why on Earth I didn’t think of this in the first place.
Truth be told, I love revising. I love digging into a book and strengthening the plot, tightening the writing, and punching up the dialogue. I love getting to spend more time with my imaginary friends. And though I admit to an initial freak-out, I love having an editor who can point to the precise thing that needs changing, say “fix this,” and send me down a merry path of new ideas that make all those things happen.
I am not good at working on two projects at once, so Christmas has been put on hold while I spiff Buried Leads up, but I’ll get back to it, hopefully with more knowledge of how to make it better and stronger. Writing is still my first love, and I can’t wait to see how Nichelle’s holiday ends up.
I have dreamed of being an author for so long, and living it these past seven weeks has been wonderful. Thank you so, so much, to everyone who has bought, read, and said lovely things about my novel. Y’all have made this an experience I will never forget, and you have no idea how much I appreciate every one of you.
Thank you, LynDee, for this lovely look into your world.
Note: I wrote this post before the news of the events in Newtown broke on Friday. As a former journalist and current mother of small children, I have been both glued to the news and horrified by each new revelation. I have squeezed all my monkeys tighter this weekend, but especially my oldest, who got off the bus from her elementary school Friday afternoon surprised to find herself swept off her feet by a mommy who was bawling her eyes out. My thoughts are with the parents in Connecticut who can no longer hug their children.
Mom. Wife. Author. Event planner. I have quite the hat collection these days for a girl with a head so big normal hats don’t fit it. But I adore hats of all kinds, so I line up my mental collection and look at the pretty colors and shapes.
Keeping them all straight often requires quantities of coffee that would probably horrify my doctor. But, since I love pretty much everything about my life even when I’m having one of those days where I just want everyone to shut up for ten seconds and I take to hiding in the bathroom or my car to get a few moments of peace, I keep juggling the hats.
Lane asked me to chat today about how I do that. The simple answer is: gadgets. From my MacBook to my iPhone to my refrigerator door, I have reminders, calendars, and spreadsheets all around me to keep me (sort of) on track. But I thought it might be fun—and helpful to mommies who have dreams they’d like to chase—to have a look at these lovely hats and how I keep them in order.
My mommy hat, which looks rather like a creation of Dr. Seuss
The outside of my fridge is the magical map to how I run a household and keep five people and one tiny dog fed and happy in the midst of everything else I have going on.
First, it has all the school info: since I can’t say no to my oldest monkey’s big blue puppy-dog eyes, I also have a room mom hat (I see this one as a slick black fedora) this year. We are fortunate to live in an amazing school district and she has the very best teacher in the whole world, so that makes this one fun. But I still have to remember to do things. All the class parties and events and their various deadlines, plus when I need to make a sign up genius (calling all room moms: if you’ve not discovered this amazing free online tool, you’re really going to love me for eliminating the dreaded reply-all email from your life! Just go create a sign up form and forget about it. They even remind the folks who sign up a couple of days beforehand. Truly, genius.) to make sure everything gets there on time are on the school calendar on the side of the fridge.
Above that one hangs the preschool monthly calendar so I can keep track of when pajama day is and what letter this week’s show and tell must start with. Next to that, the monthly elementary school lunch calendar tells me which days my daughter will and won’t eat the cafeteria food for lunch, which can lead to early-morning swearing when I discover that I have thirty-five seconds to pack my pickiest eater a lunch and get her to the bus on time.
I also have these fabulous magnetic notepads from Anthropologie that make grocery lists and meals no-brainers. One allows me to check off items we need from the store as I notice we’re out, and then tear off my shopping list on the way out the door. The other has a place for weekly menus, so I don’t forget to buy anything. One trip to the store is way better than five.
My wife hat, a sexy and slightly mysterious pillbox of satin with some sort of cropped veil
I try really hard to not let my marriage get lost in the constant chaos that is my very happy life. My husband is a wonderful man and a great dad, and truly my very best friend. During the day, my MacBook helps out with that, because while I’m working, I can use Messages to keep up with how his day is going and send him little notes. He emails me photos of flowers, which I adore because it says he’s thinking about me, they don’t die, and they’re free.
My calendar keeps track of date nights and movie releases we might want to see together, and my iPhone is the lifeline to my wonderful babysitter, who always replies promptly to my texts even though she’s a busy honor student who plays competitive sports.
My author hat, which has magical powers and changes from book to book
This is definitely the one that’s been hardest to keep up with for the past few years, and now that I have a book launching in just six weeks (Eep!) it’s become a fun-with-a-hint-of-work Chanel baseball cap, instead of a jaunty little hobby beret. Just yesterday, I was chatting with the principal at my daughter’s school and I mentioned the book and she stared with wide eyes and said “Don’t you have two other little ones? How in the world do you find the time to write novels?”
The short answer is, coffee. But the longer one is a much better explanation of how I make writing a priority in my days. My MacBook has a program that cuts me off from the Internet (because we all know how many hours fun things like Facebook and Pinterest can suck away from productivity), so I try to take care of my social networking type stuff in the morning and evening, and reserve my littlest monkey’s afternoon nap time for writing. On a good day, I can get down between 1,000 and 3,000 words in a nap.
At that pace, accounting for days when it’s less or more and days when I can’t manage to fit in much at all, it takes me about three months to draft a novel. The key is making myself write every day. In the process of drafting my current manuscript, which is a sequel to Front Page Fatality, I’ve had days when I wasn’t feeling so connected to Nichelle. But I found if I just parked my rear in the chair and opened the file and started typing, the story would eventually come. And even when there’re not-so-good words in part of a scene, it’s worth it for the ones that come when I get going. A rough draft is just that: rough. I know I’m going to revise it within an inch of it’s life, anyhow. So I just have to get it down.
The further I get toward being a published author, the more guest blogs and interviews I have to write, which present new (but fun and welcome) challenges. I have a spreadsheet with the post topic, the due date, and the email address I need to return material to, which helps me keep it organized. Every morning I check that to see if there’s one I need to write, and on days like today (when there is), I set the baby up with Mickey Mouse or a bucket of blocks and start writing. Sometimes it takes a few drafts to find exactly what I want to say, but I can usually knock out a post in the time it takes for her to watch Mickey or the Little Einsteins have an adventure.
My event planning hat, which of course must be a fancy silk party hat with bright colors and long ribbons
When I not doing one of those other things I just listed, or sighing at the latest mess the monkeys have made, or trying to squeeze in a pinch of sleep, I plan central Virginia events for a well-known international weight loss company. Having been through the program and lost a touch north of 100 pounds, I know what it’s like to walk through the doors for the first time, and exactly how much having fun, motivating events to attend can help people become healthier.
This is where my iPhone calendar, my cell phone itself, and my email program keep me in line. I have a separate email account for the planning stuff, which makes it easy to click over and glance through a few times a day, whether on my laptop or my phone, to see if there’s anything that needs my attention. I like to take care of emails right away so the sender gets a prompt reply, but also so I don’t forget about them.
I also manage the social media presence of the company in central Virginia, which various apps from the folks at Facebook make it easy to do from my phone. Every once in a while, it’s necessary for me to sit down and spend a couple of hours on this, usually when I have a big event coming up in the next few weeks or have a flyer to design, but most of the time I fit it in while I wait in the carpool line, between tweets in the afternoon, or while we watch TV after dinner. Twenty minutes a few times a day makes a big difference in the lives of folks who attend the events and get inspired to lead a healthier lifestyle, and that’s rewarding in a different way than getting a hug from the monkeys or a lovely review of a book, but it’s no less important.
There are days when I think there’s not enough sleep or coffee or combination of the two to keep me upright for one more second, and my rear end would appreciate me going to the gym more often, but I wouldn’t know what to do without any one of my lovely pieces of headwear. I hope something here helped you, lovely reader, to see how to keep all your own hats in line, and I want to offer a heartfelt thanks to Lane for having me on The Outside Lane today.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to swap the ballcap for the crazy Dr. Seuss contraption (with the party hat perched on top), because Little Einsteins is over and it’s time for the preschool carpool line.
Crime reporter Nichelle Clarke’s days can flip from macabre to comical with a beep of her police scanner. Then an ordinary accident story turns extraordinary when evidence goes missing, a prosecutor vanishes, and a sexy Mafia boss shows up with the headline tip of a lifetime. As Nichelle gets closer to the truth, her story gets more dangerous. Armed with a notebook, a hunch, and her favorite stilettos, Nichelle races to splash these shady dealings across the front page before this deadline becomes her last.
The first book of the series, Front Page Fatality, will be available to the public on January 29, 2013, but since I know the author *hair fluff* I got an advance copy to enjoy. Now, I love spoilers, but I know most people don’t, so I won’t tell you ANYTHING about the story (because if I try, I’ll spill), but I will tell you this: Front Page Fatality is a tightly written, interesting mystery that is fun to read because of how vibrantly and realistically Nichelle Clarke is written. From the top of her head, to the soles of her Louboutin shod feet, Nichelle is personable, relatable, and exactly the kind of person you’d like to take out for Happy Hour.
Since I can’t do any real talking, I asked LynDee if she would. I’m excited to bring you The Outside Lane’s first official interview with soon-to-be-best-selling author, LynDee Walker.
TOL: Welcome to The Outside Lane, LynDee!
LW: Thanks for having me! I love your reviews, commentaries, and general attitude, and am very glad to be here!
TOL: Get us started! Tell us the story of how Front Page Fatality came out of your brain.
LW: The first draft came out insanely fast. It took five weeks to finish. And it was super long and very messy. It all started with a scene that’s in the middle of the book and is a spoiler for the story, so I don’t want to say which one, but it pestered me for a few days and I thought putting it in the computer would make it go away. Instead, I got bitten by the fiction bug.
I think it was borne of a desperation to get back to some sort of writing, because after almost five years away from journalism–as a stay-at-home mom–I didn’t realize how much I missed just the act of putting down words until I started writing that scene. I also missed the newsroom. Ergo, a reporter heroine that gives me the ability to play in that world without the long hours away from my babies.
I went back to what I thought then was the beginning of the story and wrote through to that original scene, then wrote from there to the end. I pantsed it the whole way: the best description I have for you is that it was like watching a movie in my head and transcribing what was happening. I had no idea what was coming next, and wrote so manically because I wasn’t sure when or if it would stop.
As I wrote, I took chapters to my mom and my best girlfriend and they kept asking to see more, so I kept writing. But then there were literally years of revising and revamping the story to get it to what you see today. I think there are maybe five or six sentences in the entire book that have survived since the rough draft.
TOL: That’s a lot of work. What was the most difficult part of getting the story from your thoughts to the page?
LW: Initially, it was finding time to do it fast enough with two small children and a part-time job. I knew nothing about writing fiction when I started, except that I got to use descriptive words and let people have opinions, so I just wrote.
When I began learning about good fiction writing and started revising, the most difficult parts were learning how to reveal a character in layers, and making sure the words conveyed the scene I had in my head to the reader (which is one of many reasons I adore my beta readers).
TOL: The audience is always right! But you’re used to an audience. You are an award winning journalist, and journalists are required to get straight to the facts and tell a story in short order. How did that affect your novel writing style?
LW: Adversely, at first, actually. I had so much fun getting to use all the flowery words I’d always been told were off-limits that the rough draft was way too long. But during revisions, I think my training came in handy by helping me pare out unnecessary words without affecting the story. And my fantastic editor and I tightened the book even through the last round of copy edits. I think in the end, my journalism background made for a fast pace and a tight story.
TOL: And your journalism background taught you how to write a tease, too. What comes next for Nichelle?
LW: She’s getting herself into more trouble digging around in another murky story, and her relationship with Joey is heating up. And of course, she’s shoe shopping.
TOL: I can’t wait! But we’ve got another month before everyone else can read Nichelle’s adventures, and I’m going to have to wait a lot longer! In the meantime, where else can we find your work?