Mystery Novel Seeks New Home

Originally published at The Stiletto Gang on 04.22.15

As the release date for my newest mystery (An UnseenCurrent) approaches (April 28th– ahhhhhhh!!!) I find myself once again pondering the cruel irony of nature that crafts writers to be introspective sorts and then pits them against a task to which they are monumentally unsuited.  That is to say: marketing. The woman hours spent lovingly crafting characters, settings, and events leaves the writer more than a little in love with their own book. To then have it heartlessly thrust into the public where some reviewer will crassly thumb through it and declare it to be passable is like being gently stabbed with needles by someone who doesn’t really care about your problems.  We all want to be bestselling authors.  I mean, who doesn’t want to be RichardCastle? (I really am ruggedly handsome!)  But in all honesty, I think most writers would rather have their books treasured and loved than consumed like soda and disposed of.

I remember the first time I saw one of my aunt’s books at Half-Price Books. My aunt,Linda Nichols, writes beautiful Christian fiction with snappy plots and characters you want to hug. I had not yet, published any books and I personally thought that seeing her books on the shelf of a used bookstore was cool.  But Linda did not think it was cool – there was wincing and the sad look of “ohh, I wish I didn’t know that.”  Someone sold her book down the river – the heathens, the Philistines! The bastards with not enough shelf space!  After I had been published I realized her pain.  How could someone not love my book?! Why would anyone give my book away?  My books are awesome.  All right, yes, I recognize the shelf space issue is a real thing – even libraries don’t have ALL the books.  But as each baby book flies out into the world, forgive me if I hope that it will find at least one home where it will be treasured.

And on that note – who wants a free digital copy of An Unseen Current?  It’s looking for an awesome home (and someone who will leave a review).  Leave a comment here or on Facebook to be entered to win.  I’ll draw names on Friday morning.


Interview with a Girlfriend

One of the best things about being a part of a collective blog like the Girlfriends Book Club is that I have access to the collective wisdom of all the Girlfriends. As a relative newcomer to the group I’ve been catching up on old blogs, following the gals on twitter, and bumping a few of the Girlfriend books to the top of my reading list. For today’s blog I had a virtual sit down with Girlfriend Jess Riley and asked all the questions that I think readers should ask me.

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Jess Riley

Question 1 – Let’s cover the basics. Who are you and what do you write?
Uh-oh, I feel an existential crisis coming on! Let’s see…who is Navin Johnson. I mean Jess Riley. These days, I am up to my eyeballs in grant deadlines for my public school clients. When I’m not writing grant proposals or sending veggies through my new Spiralizer (awesome little gadget), I am writing novels…really, I am! I guess you could say I write chick lit that has a major crush on Jonathan Tropper and Shannon Olson? One of the biggest compliments I got recently was an unsolicited review for Mandatory Release from fellow Girlfriend Ellyn Oaksmith: “This is a quirky Indie movie of a book that would win all the prizes at the Sundance Film Festival. ” That made me blush, but it’s essentially what I’m going for with my writing and I love Ellyn for the compliment. Here’s the official bit about my books: Jess’s debut novel, DRIVING SIDEWAYS, was released by Random House in 2008. Selected as a Target Breakout Book, it’s now in its fourth printing. Other novels include ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE and MANDATORY RELEASE. Find her online at

Question 2 – What is the weirdest research you’ve ever done?
One of my secrets used to be lurking on message boards that would be frequented by people like my characters. The main character in Mandatory Release is a young man with a spinal cord injury; as I don’t know any such folks in real life, I dropped in on a few online communities and learned some specific & interesting pet peeves shared by people in wheelchairs. (Such as drunk girls wanting to sit on your lap, people trying to “steer you,” even hair clippings sticking to your hands if you had a hair-cut scheduled for a rainy day.) I actually found two young women with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) this way when I was researching Driving Sideways; they both graciously read early drafts of the novel, as I was keen to make sure the story honored and reflected the experience of a young woman with kidney disease.

Question 3 – What is the most uncomfortable piece of writing you’ve ever completed?
I hate any time I write about parents or siblings (which is ironic because All the Lonely People is all about parents and siblings). I always worry my family will think I’m writing about them.

Question 4 – What is your most memorable book promotion event?
Oh man, I have a zillion embarrassing stories about publicity-gone-wrong. One of the most shame-inducing stories is long, about my most recent book release party, but you can find it on my blog if you’re curious. I also laugh every time I think of the time I was stalking my book at Target–of course I’d check it out to see how many copies were in stock when I ran errands. I was still lurking in the book section when I overheard a young woman say to her boyfriend. “I don’t want a hardcover, I just want something funny and easy to read on vacation.” I took the last copy of Driving Sideways from the shelf and handed it to her. “Uh, I wrote this. You should take it on vacation with you.” She probably thought I was crazy, but she took it with her!

Question 5 – What is your favorite book or movie that everyone thinks you’re weird to love?

Book: One of my all-time favorites is The Stand by Stephen King. I always proselytize about this one!
Movie: This is a hard one, because my movie tastes are all over the map. But generally speaking, if it’s designed to be a big budget pander-fest with stock characters and beats straight out of Screenwriting 101, I’m out. I love anything weird, unexpected, clever, smart, funny: this is going to sound strange, but I really enjoyed both Dead Snow movies on Netflix. Campy…Norwegian…zombie Nazis? How could I resist!

Thanks to Jess Riley for her interview and even if you don’t see her in the book section at Target, you should probably still pick up her books!

Hashtag This

Originally published at The Stiletto Gang on 04.08.15

There’s a hashtag on Twitter for people who are writing – #amwriting. An innocuous hashtag for tracking other writers, but sometimes… it can be just a little bit smug. And given the nature of writers I was wondering if we could have a more honest hashtag? #amsurfingtheweb #amwatchingcatvideos #amdoinganythingbutwriting

Right now I’m doing anything but working on the outline of Carrie Mae Book 4.  Because, no, I don’t know how they ended up in a brawl to the death among the Amsterdam tulips.  Can’t I just wave my magic writer wand, do a little jazz hands, and write by the seat of my pants?  The problem with pantsing it, is that I am no Louis L’Amour.  Mr. L’Amour apparently did not believe in rewrites or edits; he believed that rewrites killed the freshness of the story.  Or he believed that we would buy whatever he wrote. #hewasright  When I attempt to pants it, my stories go sideways and I end up writing entire chapters that sound like vacation brochures. #needavacation No story was ever moved forward by a character actually stopping to smell the roses, or in my case, tulips.  Unless, of course, he got wacked on the head while bending to smell one. #deathbytulip #nameformynextnovel #dontstealit #mine

So here I am, forced into the drudgery of outlining.  Coming up with the answers before I even know what all the questions are. Or in my case, procrastinating for all I’m worth. #procrastination! I could say that I’m mulling it over or letting it marinate, but let’s face it, at no point in my life have I ever mulled something over while doing the dishes.  The only thing I think while doing the dishes is that dishes suck and we all need to stop eating so there will be less dishes.  #seriously It’s productivity through hatred of the other available task. #atleastsomethinggotdone Eventually, I’ll have to return to the outline – figure out the who, why, where and how.  Eventually, I will have to do the research and plug the plot holes.  Eventually, I will actually have to write.  #amwriting   Sigh.  Can’t I be #amvacuuming instead?