Wisdom of the (Mixed) Ages: Linda Lovely

Edith here, trying not to get whiplash from how fast and how extreme our weather has been changing. I’m happy to welcome author Linda Lovely back to the blog. She has a new book out today that looks like a lot of fun! Here’s the blurb:

PickedOff frontFinal5_23

It’s been seven months since vegan Brie Hooker moved to Udderly Kidding Dairy to live with her feisty Aunt Eva, a confirmed carnivore. But tonight there’ll be no family feud over dinner entrees. Udderly’s hosting a campaign fundraiser for Eva’s best friend, who hopes to be South Carolina’s next governor. The candidate’s son, a pro quarterback, is flying home for the wingding. And Brie’s eager to get a close-up view of the cute tush she’s admired on TV, even though she’s reluctantly sworn off even more tempting local beefcake.

The campaign fundraiser promises to be a huge success until a pitchfork attack turns the goat farm into a crime scene—again. To protect her friends, Brie puts her sleuthing skills to work. Will she live long enough to find out who’s behind a vicious assault, a kidnapping, blackmail, and multiple murders?

Take it away, Linda.

How often do you spend a full twenty-four hours having no interaction with people younger or older than yourself?

The answer is probably seldom unless you’re a hermit or an author on deadline, who doesn’t find time to interact with soap and water either.

From birth through teen-hood, even the kids who have their eyes glued to electronic screens for hours at a time must deal with parents, grandparents, teachers, doctors, babysitters, and store clerks.

Likewise nursing home residents may be surrounded by other oldsters, but they still come in contact with younger medical orderlies, nurses, doctors, and, if they’re lucky, visiting family members.

Those of us in the middle typically spend some time every day with younger and older people. Out in the real world generations mix, which is one of the best arguments for populating a mystery with a cast of characters outside the hero’s or heroine’s age range. It makes the novel’s world more credible.

But there are even better reasons for giving face/page time to individuals of differing ages. These include divergent viewpoints shaped by generational life experiences and unique knowledge and skill sets that can be tapped to solve a mystery. And don’t overlook how choosing main characters of mixed ages opens up possibilities for conflict and laughs.

Among my favorites in the “Die Hard” film franchise is Live Free or Die Hard. This film pairs a crusty veteran detective (Bruce Willis) with a twenty-something computer hacker (Justin Long). The combination accomplishes all of the objectives just mentioned as the two team up to stop a digital-based “fire sale” aimed at crippling America’s transportation, communication, financial and utility networks. The plot would never have worked had screenwriters tried to pull it off with either main character acting solo. The detective was a digital simpleton, while the hacker’s skills would have been worthless without the detective’s policing knowhow.

I’m currently re-reading Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, the first of Alan Bradley’s delightful English mystery series set in 1950s Britain for a mystery book club. The series features Flavia, a precocious 11-year-old girl, who keeps her loneliness at bay with her passion for chemistry. She has two older sisters (late teens) with quite different interests and outlooks. But the clever plot has her interacting primarily with adults from relatively young to over ninety. Humor’s derived from her view of the world and also from adult assumptions that tend to dismiss Flavia’s capabilities due to her age.

In my new humorous cozy Brie Hooker Mystery series, I’ve yet to feature a main character as young as Flavia. (Not sure my childhood memories are anywhere near accurate.) But I did intentionally make certain that Brie, my early thirties heroine, has plenty of give and take with the older generation. Brie, a vegan, lives with her Aunt Eva, a sixty-two-year-old carnivore, on a goat dairy farm, and Brie’s parents, a lawyer and a professor in their fifties, live a few miles away. Since I’m closer in age to Brie’s aunt than Brie my casting motivation may, in part, been a desire to give older folks a voice in the series. But my main reason was to offer the reader a more textured world with greater variety. Like the world most of us live in.

Readers: What’s the age range of the people you hang out with?

LindaHeadshotOver the past five years, hundreds of mystery/thriller writers have met Linda Lovely at check-in for the annual Writers’ Police Academy, which she helps organize. Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and ad copy. She writes a blend of mystery and humor, chuckling as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who most annoy her.  PICKED OFF is the second humorous installment in her new Brie Hooker Mystery series. Lovely is active in Sisters in Crime and belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America.

 

Writing Through the Tough Times — Guest Annette Dashofy

Anjana is the winner of Uneasy Prey! Look for an email from Annette!

Welcome back, Annette Dashofy. Annette is the author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series. No Way Home, the fifth book in the series, is nominated for an Agatha Award for best contemporary novel. Uneasy Prey, the sixth book in the series, released on March 27, 2018. Annette is going to give away a copy of Uneasy Prey to one of our commenters. Here’s a little about the book:

On the way to the emergency room, an elderly woman regains consciousness long enough to inform paramedic Zoe Chambers that her fall down the basement steps was no accident. Before she can say more, she succumbs to her injuries, launching Zoe and Police Chief Pete Adams into the investigation of a burglary ring targeting the area’s vulnerable senior citizens.

Zoe—in spite of Pete’s objections—takes it upon herself to act as protection detail after the con men, disguised as water company employees, set their sights on Zoe’s beloved former landlady. It’s a decision that eventually puts Zoe in harm’s way.

With Zoe already recovering from one close call, Pete must race against time to stop the crime ring—and a dangerous killer—before they strike again.

I recently asked the fabulous members of my “street team” (AKA “Zoe Chambers Mysteries & Friends” on Facebook) to list some topics they’d like to see me blog about. The list was filled with terrific ideas, but one suggestion kept repeating in various forms.

How do you keep writing when life gets in the way?

It’s a subject I’m well versed in. I wrote through my dad’s final days, although back then it was more for therapy than for publication. And I wrote through my mom’s failing health and death while under contract for my new book, Uneasy Prey.

The reasons and methods for writing through hardships vary widely. No one-size-fits-all solutions here, folks. Sorry.

When my dad had Alzheimer’s in addition to a series of strokes, I wasn’t a published author yet, but it was during this time that I rekindled my love of writing fiction. I wrote a truly horrible novel that will never see the light of day. A romantic suspense set in Las Vegas (where I’d never been), it was pure fun rubbish. But it served its purpose. It was my daily escape from reality. I would spend the morning visiting Dad, feed him lunch, and then come home a frazzled bundle of nerves and sometimes tears. My routine was simple. I’d fix a cup of coffee, eat some medicinal chocolate, and sit down at my computer. I’d tell my family, “I’m going to Las Vegas.” Translation: “I’m going to write. Do. Not. Bother. Me.”

Ten years later, by the time my mom’s health had started to go south, I had a handful of published novels under my belt and a contract and a deadline. My life situation had changed so my writing routine had to change as well. Mom was in assisted living. My husband worked steady daylight instead of afternoon shifts. Writing after I returned home from visiting Mom didn’t work because Hubby rolled in about then.

I started writing first thing in the morning. And I do mean first thing. My dear friend Ramona Long has a morning “sprint” thread on Facebook where writers leave a comment telling of their intent to log off and just write for an hour. Most days, I would supplement that morning one-hour sprint with another couple of hours.

The key to getting that book completed was that pre-dawn one hour. Ship Hubby off to work and write before the rest of the world woke up to dump problems in my lap.

Did I meet my deadline for that book? Heck no. But I knew I wouldn’t. I saw the proverbial writing on the wall with my mom and asked my publisher for an extension well in advance. They were fabulous and gave me an addition 3 ½ months. I did meet that second deadline.

Yes, there were days when Mom was in hospice that I didn’t write. There were days when planning her funeral and dealing with her estate wiped me out mentally leaving no functioning brain cells and no energy to even look at the manuscript.

And there were days when I did write but what I wrote was crap. That’s okay. I could and did fix it later.

By way of advice for those who are also dealing with life while trying to write, I offer the following:

  1. Find a time of day that works for you, whether it’s before dawn, during your lunch break, afternoon, or late at night, and make a ritual of writing. It might be one hour. It might be 20 minutes. Let your family know this is your sacred time to “go to Las Vegas.”
  2. Be flexible. Stuff will happen. You may have to change your routine depending on life’s demands.
  3. Allow yourself to write crap. If your brain isn’t into the story, that’s okay. Put down words with the knowledge and intention that you’ll fix them later. Sometimes the simple act of getting words on a page can prove cathartic.
  4. Above all else, be kind to yourself. Ask for a deadline extension if things are that dire. Don’t add to the stress by beating yourself up about needing to write when you simply can’t. Remind yourself that everything is fodder. You might be going through hell, but you can draw from those emotions later. Instead of writing fiction, journal. Blog. Or pour your heart out in some form that no one else will ever read.

Whether you’re dealing with a family illness or simply the everyday grind of work, school, and keeping the kids fed, the trick is…there is no trick. Find a small chunk of time each day and designate it as your sacred writing time. Maybe it’s an hour, maybe it’s fifteen minutes. Maybe you’ll write 1,000 words or maybe only half a page. But that daily routine will keep your head in the story and will keep your story moving in the right direction.

Readers and fellow writers, what methods do you employ to get through the rough patches life throws at you? Annette will answer your comments as she can today.

Bio: Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. She’s a three-time finalist for the Agatha Award: Best First Novel of 2014 and Best Contemporary Novel of 2015 and NO WAY HOME has been nominated for the 2017 Agatha for Best Contemporary Novel. UNEASY PREY (March 2018) is the sixth in the series. You can find Annette at http://www.annettedashofy.com/

Guest: Alexia Gordon

Edith here, loving the smells of summer, and delighted to welcome mystery author Alexia Gordon as our guest today! Her second Gethsemane Brown mystery released this month. I read Murder in G Major, the first Gethsemane Brown mystery (nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel, I might add), and loved it. I can’t wait to read the new one. Here’s what Death in D Minor is about:

DeathInDMinor front

Gethsemane Brown, an African-American classical musician a living in an Irish village, scrambles to call her vanished spectral roomie back from beyond and find a way to save her cottage from being sold. When her visiting brother-in-law is accused of stealing a valuable antique, Gethsemane strikes a deal with a garda investigator to go undercover as a musician at a charity ball and snoop for evidence linking antiques to a forgery/theft ring in exchange for the investigator’s help clearing her brother-in-law. At the party, she accidentally conjures the ghost of an eighteenth-century sea captain, then ends up the prime suspect in the party host’s murder. With the captain’s help, she races to untangle a web of phony art and stolen antiques to exonerate herself and her brother-in-law – until the killer targets her. Will she bring a thief and murderer to justice, or will her encore investigation become her swan song?

Doesn’t that just sound delicious? And Alexia is giving away the audio book (on CDs) of Death in D Minor to one lucky commenter here today.

A Method To My Madness

I’m used to doing things without giving much conscious thought to the steps involved in execution. I’m like Nike, I “just do it”. I have a process, of course, and it’s a logical process but it’s an unconscious one, like those programs always running in the background on your laptop. I think it’s hereditary. I never learned to cook from my mother because she’s a “some-bit cook”. I’d watch her in the kitchen, far enough away to not be underfoot, and ask how much of a particular ingredient she added to the pot. “Some,” she’d answer, or, “A bit.” I’ve had to become more aware of those processes since becoming a published author, however, because one of the questions I’m often asked is, “What is your writing process?” I’m forced to come up with a better answer than, “Um.”

I go through several phases as I write a book: brainstorming (a.k.a. daydreaming), researching, plotting, outlining, developing characters, writing, rewriting. Not necessarily in that order. Definitely, not in a linear order. Multi-phase execution occurs simultaneously. I may develop characters while I research. I flip back and forth between outlining and writing.

Brainstorming and research are two of my favorite phases. I love to play the “What if?” game. I read the recent article about a company offering to implant a microchip in employees’ hands to allow them the convenience of unlocking doors and turning on the copy machine with a key card. Instead of thinking, “Wow, that would be convenient, what a great idea,” I thought, “What if?” What if someone wanted to access a secured building? Would they cut off someone’s hand to get the chip? Kidnap the chipped employee and force them to do the dirty work so only their fingerprints were left at the scene? And what if a chipped employee quit? How far would the company go to retrieve it’s data? All sorts of criminal possibilities flooded my brain.

I also love to people watch (and to eavesdrop), all in the name of research. Several days ago I needed a model for a character. I won’t say which one. I went out to eat and kept my eyes and ears open. Before I finished my coffee, I spotted diners at a nearby table who exhibited behavior that begged to be fictionalized. This week, I’m at a conference related to my day job. I attend the sessions and listen to the speakers to get the information I need for work but a tiny part of my brain stays alert for some tidbit that could work its way into fiction someday, like a robotic vehicle that recovers casualties from a building in midtown Manhattan that’s under attack by aliens. (None of the speakers mentioned aliens. I made that up.)

So, there’s a partial answer, my attempt to quantify “a bit”. I’ll keep “just doing it” because that’s how my brain works. But I’ll be more mindful of the how. Because “Um” isn’t a good answer.

Readers: Do you map your processes? Or do you just do it and sort out how later? Remember, your comment could win you the audio book (on CDs) of Death in D Minor!

AlexiaGordonA writer since childhood, Alexia Gordon continued writing through college but put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. Her medical career established, she returned to writing fiction. She completed SMU’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas. Henery Press published her first novel, Murder in G Major, book one of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, in September 2016. Book two, Death in D Minor, premiered July 2017. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Writers’ League of Texas. She listens to classical music, drinks whiskey, and blogs at http://www.missdemeanors.com.

Welcome Guest Julie Mulhern!

I’m so delighted to welcome Julie Mulhern to the Wicked Cozy Authors! Julie is celebrating the release of her fifth book, Watching The Detectives, in her Country Club Murders series. This fun series is set in the 1970s and if you aren’t friends with her on Facebook you should be her posts of 70s ads are a hoot. I’m never quite sure whether to laugh or cringe. Julie is giving an ebook of the first in the series The Deep End to one of our commenters! Welcome, Julie!

I remember the first time.

My hands shook.

Tears filled my eyes.

My heart seemed too big for my chest.

The first time. It was pure magic.

The fifth time was no less magical.

I’m talking about the arrival of books on my front porch. My books. Delivered by UPS in a brown cardboard box that barely contains the happiness within.

In the past two-and-a-half years, five of Ellison Russell’s adventures have made it into the world.

Five Country Club Murders.

Five release days.

When The Deep End released, I waited for a confetti cannon to go off, showering me with glitter, confetti, and massive sales.

I don’t wait for that cannon anymore. If I want confetti or glitter (frankly I’m not big on either—it gets in the carpets and I have to vacuum), I need to provide them myself.

This release day, I was a guest on a Kansas City morning show (much more fun than waiting for non-existent cannons) then I went out to lunch with my oldest daughter, visited with some of my favorite readers on social media, and went out for wine with a friend then dinner with my husband.

Did I leave out the part about checking my numbers on an hourly basis? Oops!

I did that too. Because sales matter.

Most cozy readers know about the discontinuation of beloved series. It’s painful. For devoted readers. For the publisher who wields the axe. And—most of all—for the writer.

Sales matter. Maybe not to the reader, but I can guarantee the publisher and the writer care. A lot.

Thank heavens, writers aren’t like used car salesmen. We don’t corner readers, put our books into their hands, and tell them they’ll regret it if they don’t buy. We might want to. We don’t. Except that one…never mind.

I am so thrilled to be with the Wicked Cozy Authors today. I have purchased and loved books by each of them. I buy their books new. From Amazon or Barnes & Noble or my local bookstore. I hope you have too.

Because sales matter.

Readers: Do you have a favorite fashion memory from the 70’s?

Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders. She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean–and she’s got an active imagination. Truth is–she’s an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.

 

 

Welcome Back Cindy Brown — A Gunfight Gone Wrong, Marauding Chihuahuas, & the Real Annie Oakley

Congratulations, Avis! you won an ebook! Cindy will be in touch!

I hope you all have the chance to meet Cindy in person some day. Her smile lights up any room she’s in. Here is are three things that inspired some of Cindy’s latest book Ivy Get Your Gun! Cindy is going to give away an ebook to one person who leaves a comment. Thanks, Cindy!

A Gunfight Gone Wrong, Marauding Chihuahuas, & the Real Annie Oakley

Ivy Get Your Gun may be fiction, but three real-life events inspired the book. The first two were news events in Arizona. When my mom sent me the following clipping, I knew I had the opening to my new book:

Actor Shot During Tombstone, Arizona, ‘Old West’ Gunfight Re-enactment Play

An “Old West” gunfight re-enactment in Arizona ended with real casualties                          Sunday when one of the actors fired five live rounds from his gun instead of                        blanks, injuring another actor and a bystander.

Yep, Ivy’s going undercover at Gold Bug Gulch, a Western theme town a little like Tombstone. She’s also been hired to solve a problem inspired by the following real-life incident:

Stray Chihuahuas Terrorize Arizona Town, Chase Children, Run Wild

Ay, Chihuahua! An Arizona town is overrun with tiny pooches that are terrorizing children    and defecating anywhere they want — and animal control officials can’t get a leash on the problem.  Large packs of the small dogs in Maryvale chase children as they head off to school, and the number of strays has swelled beyond control, officials and residents said.

The third incident was not nearly as dramatic, but a lot closer to home. Ivy is a part-time detective and an actor, so her escapades take place in the theater. In Ivy Get Your Gun, she performs in a melodrama at Gold Bug Gulch, but I also wanted a connection with the show Annie Get Your Gun. I had a difficult time getting hold of the script and the video, so I began by researching Annie Oakley. I’d always been a fan, but I had no idea what a truly amazing woman she was.

She survived a nightmare childhood to single-handedly raise her family out of poverty (when she was still a young teen) and then went on to become the most famous woman in the world, all while maintaining an uncommon degree of integrity. I was smitten. Finally, I received the script in the mail (had to order it off eBay from New Zealand), and was able to get the movie from the library, and…wow. All I had remembered was the wonderful music and some cowboy-type shenanigans. I didn’t remember how stupid they made her look or the makeover she had to endure, and I certainly didn’t know they had changed the real-life ending of Annie’s shooting match with Frank Butler, making her lose on purpose so that she wouldn’t upstage her man. UGH.

But what to do now?  I had the rest of the book in my head and a lot of it on paper. I decided to have Ivy channel me. In addition to acting in the melodrama, she’s auditioning for Annie Get Your Gun. Like me, she has a tough time finding the script in the video and researches Annie Oakley while she waits.  And when she sees what they did to Annie’s legacy, she gets as ticked off as I did and decides to do something about it.

I love how these three real events melded into the book: the gunfight became the mystery, the Chihuahuas became the comic relief, and Annie Oakley became the soul of the book. I hope I did her proud.

Readers: What strong woman do you admire?

Cindy Brown has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s the author of the Agatha-nominated Ivy Meadows series, madcap mysteries set in the off, off, OFF Broadway world of theater. Cindy and her husband live in Portland, Oregon, though she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities.

She’d love to connect with readers at cindybrownwriter.com (where they can sign up for her Slightly Silly Newsletter) or on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Are You A Winter Person by guest Susan O’Brien

Welcome Susan O’Brien! I met Susan when we moved back to Northern Virginia. She writes the Nicki Valentine mystery series where single mom Nicki becomes a private investigator. Here’s a little about Sky Dive:

skydive-book-3-cover-art-susan-obrien-hi-resLife is finally settling down for private investigator Nicki Valentine, her kids, and her boyfriend Dean. But when a jailed mom seeks help for her endangered biological daughter, who just “aged out” of foster care, Nicki can’t say no. With Dean by her side and her free-wheeling BFF eager to investigate too, Nicki braves back alleys, drug dens, and the strip-club scene, all while wondering if any risk is too great when it comes to finding a teen in trouble. As if navigating the mean streets of King County, Virginia, isn’t enough, Nicki also faces the realities of dating as a single mom, including “sleepover” requests she never anticipated. Ultimately—in both relationships and work—Nicki must decide, “How much am I willing to risk for love?”

Susan: I’ve never been a “winter person,” so by early December, I’m already thinking spring. This carries into my writing and even onto my book covers. I set each Nicki Valentine mystery in a different season, and it’s no surprise that she hasn’t battled snow or ice yet. I was thrilled to see spring flowers on the cover of Skydive, which released in November. And the fall leaves on Sky High are my favorite part of its design. Finding Sky’s cover features a clothesline on a breezy summer day.

I wonder how many authors and readers consider seasons when writing or choosing books. As a reader, I’m especially drawn to covers and plots featuring beaches. I can almost feel the sun’s heat and the soft sand between my toes. I’ll read books with winter themes, too, but usually under a cozy blanket with hot chocolate or coffee in hand.

Seasons provide countless opportunities to define characters as well. Does the protagonist break out the skis when it’s snowing, or does she huddle inside? Does she sow seeds in the spring or admire gardens from afar? Does she go bikini shopping in the summer or avoid swimming altogether? Does she enjoy falling leaves or find them depressing? Or does she fit somewhere in the middle? (My protagonist hits the beach skydive-pic15during one investigation—with her crush, no less—and confidence is an issue for her.)

As much as I dread winter, I admit that cold days are nice for reading and writing…assuming there’s a warm mug and a crackling fire nearby. (Unfortunately, I don’t have a fireplace, so I use a space heater that looks like one.) If it’s snowing, I even have an excuse to skip errands and write for hours, only taking breaks for household responsibilities.

So tell me, what is your favorite season for writing, reading, or simply enjoying life? And do the seasons on book covers affect a story’s appeal? And are any of you reading this from a warm climate? Lucky you!

author-susan-obrien-hi-resSusan O’Brien is the Agatha Award-nominated author of the Nicki Valentine mystery series. She lives with her family in Northern Virginia and donates part of her earnings to missing children’s causes. Visit Susan online at www.SkywritingSusan.com.

 

Pen Ready, Smile Bright: a practical guide to book signings — Guest LynDee Walker

lethallifestyles-front-smWe are so happy to welcome back LynDee Walker, the Agatha Award nominated author of the Headlines in High Heels Mysteries. The sixth book in the series Lethal Lifestyles came out in September 2016!

Lyndee is giving away a copy (paperback or ebook) of Front Page Fatality – the first book in the series to someone who leaves a comment!

Here are some of LynDee’s experiences at book signings:

Hey, fabulous writer friend, congratulations are in order: your book birthday is finally here! This calls for a celebration—and what better way to celebrate a new book than a bookstore signing party?

But but but…signings are scary! People! Sales! Pressure! What if it bombs? Or what if it doesn’t (especially if you write about fictional people because real ones make you want to run screaming for a safe room)?

Here’s a secret from six books deep in these trenches: nobody ever really knows what to expect from a signing (okay, I bet Stephen King and J.K. Rowling haven’t wondered if anybody will show up in a pretty long time. I also bet neither of them is reading this, so if you are, take heart), and there’s fun to be found in every book event.

Another secret: it’s always a crapshoot. You can prepare for a signing at the same store on the same Saturday of the year the exact same way, and you’ll speak to a standing-room-only-all-the-way-to-the-back-of-the-shop packed house the first time, while the second, balloons and cookies will only manage to grab the attention of three people in two hours (one of them might actually buy a book, too).

In this relatively solitary pursuit, it’s easy to let that second scenario punch a double-wide hole in your self-confidence. Take it from someone who’s been there: it’s not personal. It’s not a reflection of your talent. And the very next signing you do could be a blowout.

Let’s take samples from the events I’ve done in the past four years, shall we?

lyndeeMy debut’s launch party set my personal bar pretty doggone high: we had it at the most adorable bookshop, in a part of Richmond that featured prominently in the book, on a Saturday in February. I fretted for weeks over traffic and parking. I watched forecast models like I’d suddenly been hired by channel 8’s storm team. Tuesday that week it was sunny and 70 degrees. Yes, in Virginia in February. Saturday morning it was gray and frigid with ice pelting anyone who stepped outside.

“That’s it,” I told my husband. “This is over before it starts. Who’s fighting Shockoe Slip traffic in this mess?” (And I’m an optimist, y’all.)

Pretty much everyone, it turned out. I am blessed with a wide circle of friends, and they turned out en masse—plus, the first two rows of chairs were full of people I’d never set eyes on who just came to hear about the book. The store was packed from stem to stern, we sold a bajillion books (well…more than 50), and I signed stuff until my hand cramped. Fabulous day.

In 2015 when my fifth book launched, I put all the same care and planning and broadcasting and inviting into a launch at my local (awesome) Barnes and Noble. The manager had signs all over the shop for weeks, I was on TV talking it up, and I was pumped.

The day before the event I got frantic call from the store: the books had been ordered but had not shipped.

How the heck do you have a book signing with no books? I grabbed the five copies I’d gotten from the publisher in the mail a couple days before and went to the store hoping for the best.

The cool spin on this news: we sold out of books!

The not as cool honest truth: I sat at the table for two hours and sold exactly those five books. There was never anything that could be called a line. Every single cookie was eaten by a child who walked up and said “can I have one?” while their parent stood far enough back that they didn’t have to talk to me. BUT. One woman drove almost 100 miles round trip to get me to sign her book. See? There’s always something fun.

Like that time I went to sign books at Bouchercon only to find myself right next to Charles Todd. The only time it could possibly make anyone feel self-conscious that there are ten people in line to get their autograph is when there are a hundred in the next line over. BUT. Charles and Caroline were lovely people (most book people are), and he leaned over at one point and whispered “you’re new. You’ll get there.”

Fast forward to September 2016, the launch event for my sixth book. Same Barnes and Noble, same wonderful store staff, same 2 p.m. Saturday time slot. I did the same PR, I sent cute wedding-themed invitations, and I crossed various appendages.

The books (big stacks of all six titles) arrived a week in advance. Everything was set and ready. I worried that we’d only sell three this time and they’d never ask me back.

I ran into the store right at two (small child emergency on my way out the door, naturally) and plopped into the chair. By the time I sat up from bending to pull pens from my bag and tuck it under the table there was a line the likes of which I hadn’t seen since…maybe ever. It took almost two hours to get to everyone (full disclosure: I did chat with anyone who wanted to chat, because that’s my favorite part of this gig. I’m that woman who makes new friends in the grocery store checkout line). And while a few of my girlfriends were there, by the time you’re on book six, this whole “LynDee wrote a(nother) book” thing is old hat to your circle and they have their own stuff to do and will download it to their iPhone later, thankyouverymuchandcongratulations. Most of these people didn’t know me for anything but my work. And that was pretty darned fun, right there. I kept glancing to the back of the line to smile a “please don’t leave,” at whoever was last.

At the end of the day we’d sold out of four of the six titles, the store manager was beside himself, one of my readers had brought me (amazing) home-baked pink high heel cookies, and my face hurt from smiling.

I had no idea when I left for the event that it would go that well. And I have no expectation that my next one will do the same (but I can hope).

So readers, know that we love you even more when you drop into events to say hello, and writers, walk in with your pen ready, your smile bright, and your best “I got this” attitude. Whether there are two people or two hundred, something fun will happen. Pinky swear.

frontpageReaders: Have you been to a fun book signing? And authors have you had a good/bad experience you want to share?

Bio: LynDee Walker is the author of six national bestselling mysteries featuring crime reporter Nichelle Clarke, beginning with the Agatha Award-nominated FRONT PAGE FATALITY (2013).

The newest book in the series, LETHAL LIFESTYLES, was published on September 27, 2016.Before she started writing mysteries, LynDee was an award-winning journalist. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the U.S. She adores her family, her readers, and enchiladas. She often works out tricky plot points while walking off the enchiladas. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she is either playing with her children, working on her next novel, or admiring beautiful shoes she can’t wear.