Let’s play a game

One of the most popular questions readers ask writers is “where do you get your ideas.” I can’t speak for all writers, but for me, a new story starts with a spark, then a flicker, then a full-blown flame. images (4)

Where does the spark come from? I play the “what if” game. What if a spaceship crashed on earth and the ship’s survivors were…or what if it wasn’t earth? What if it was a planet that only looked like earth…what if…

Why don’t you play along with me and we’ll see what we come up with. Next week I’ll pick a best of the crop and the winner will receive an advanced reading copy of Wink of an Eye.

Choose a “what if” topic and leave a few sentences in the comment section along with the corresponding numbered topic. Don’t forget to include your email address. Have fun!

1) What if your mail gets mixed up with the neighbor’s? Only problem is the neighbor died twenty years ago.

2) What if a stranger crashes into you at the grocery store? As he runs away, you notice your shirt covered in blood.

3) What if you woke one morning to discover your senses had been switched? Your sense of taste was now your sense of touch. Your hearing has been switched with your sense of smell.

4) What if you had the ability to make photographs come to life?

5) What if you buy a used sofa and discover something sewed into a cushion.

 

 

Dressing for success, or maybe not

Wink of and Eye will be released in 8 weeks. The editorial reviews are starting to come in. I got a good review in Publisher’s Weekly. And a really good one in Library Journal. And for my non-writing friends,  if you don’t know the importance of this—compare it to two thumbs up from Siskel and Ebert, or your kid getting A/B Honor Roll, or the teacher giving you the gold star for the day.  I’ll admit I got the big head for a moment then there was a poopy diaper that needed changing and the school-age grands really did make A/B Honor Roll so the glory was short lived.

So anyway, part of the planning for this book launch and release is scheduling book signings. The stores I’ve spoken with have all been super excited and accommodating and their enthusiasm warms my heart. But then another problem presented itself. The more dates I filled in on my calendar, the more “book signing” outfits I was going to need.clothes1

Since my primary day job is being Granny Nanny, my idea of “business casual” is either jeans or yoga pants. Tennis shoes, hiking boots, flip-flops. I really didn’t want to do a book signing in yoga pants and a t-shirt stained with spaghettios. I needed a new wardrobe. And one of my favorite stores, Coldwater Creek, was closing its local store, and having a 70 to 90% off sale. $140 sweater for $7.00. Score! I spent about thirty dollars and came home with what I thought was my “book signing” wardrobe. The problem is I have more signings than outfits—and the signings are all local. I’ve had a lot of friends and extended family say they were coming to all the signings. And I’m like—yeah—well, don’t. I only have three outfits so I’m going to have to rotate them. If you should come to all my local signings, chances are 1 in 3 you’re going to see me wearing the same outfit. Again and again.

Oh what the heck—come on out! I’m not the formal type anyway. I’ll wear my yoga pants if you’ll wear yours.

And here’s a partial list of confirmed signings. Mark your calendars!

Why I ditched Michael Connelly

Mike Roche moderating a Q&A with the Michael Connelly at the 2014 WPA. Photo courtesy of Robin Templeton

Mike Roche moderating a Q&A with the Michael Connelly at the 2014 WPA. Photo courtesy of Robin Templeton

Yes, that Michael Connelly. He of Harry Bosch fame. The Lincoln Lawyer…yeah you know the guy. Mr. Connelly was the guest speaker at the 2014 Writer’s Police Academy and I was stoked to meet him. Was planning on carrying a couple of his books that I own with me to the Saturday night banquet and ask him to sign them.

Spent good money on a banquet ticket when I registered for the academy fully expecting to enjoy the crap out of the chicken dinner and gourmet dessert.

But something came up. Death in the family? That might be understandable, but no, everyone is still living and breathing. Wedding I was obligated to attend? Not to my knowledge. A virus that came on suddenly that I didn’t want to spread? Nah. It was an 11-year old’s text message that changed my plans.

Grandson Landon’s 11th birthday was September 3rd. Trying to plan his birthday party was like trying to plan a military operation. This friend could come if the party was Labor Day weekend but that friend couldn’t; that friend could come the next weekend, but those friends couldn’t. And the weekend after labor Day…was the Writer’s Police Academy so Grandma couldn’t be there. But—I told Nina to go with it. Plan it when his friends could be there, not his grandma. He is, after all, getting to that age where his school buddies are important to him.

So his party was set for Saturday afternoon with some swimming, a cookout, and laser tag. Just family and three or four of his friends. But anyone who reads my posts on a regular basis knows “just family” constitutes about 30 people. And that’s immediate family.

I hated I was going to miss it, but…Michael Connelly!

At registration Thursday night, I get a text from Landon thanking me for my gift. Sweet. I’m sitting there among friends and peers all talking about everything writing and I’m floating on cloud nine. When you spend twelve hours a day talking to toddlers, you welcome any adult conversation and to have that conversation centered around the writing business, it was pure heaven.

But I kept going back to Landon’s text. It would be the first party I would miss. Screenshot_2014-09-14-09-54-59 (2)

All day Friday during the classes and at the reception that evening, I mingled a little but I felt off my game. Couldn’t shake the feeling something just wasn’t right. I had a competition-winning book being released in two months by one of the major publishing houses and I barely mentioned it. I had postcards promoting the book—they’re still in my bag.

On the way home Friday night it dawned on me what the problem was. While there at the academy among my peers, I might have been where I was supposed to be—but my heart was where I needed to be. I decided then I’d skip out on the Saturday night banquet for hot dogs and birthday cake. One of the advantages of living thirty minutes away from the host hotel—I was never very far from home.

Whether I was at the banquet or not probably made little difference to Michael Connelly; but my presence at an 11-year old’s birthday party made a difference to me and Landon.

Photo courtesy of Shaw Photography Group

Photo courtesy of Shaw Photography Group

Win an Advanced Readers Copy of Wink of an Eye!

Woot! Got the first Goodreads Giveaway scheduled for Wink. Go ahead and enter – you know you want to!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Wink of an Eye by Lynn Chandler Willis

Wink of an Eye

by Lynn Chandler Willis

Giveaway ends October 18, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

You might be a bad neighbor if…

Let’s preface this with some background:

  • I’m a known introvert
  • I no longer have kids at home so have no reason to walk next door to tell said kids to come home for supper
  • There are few kids on my street so the people who live in the surrounding houses, like myself, don’t just hang out in the yard. We prefer air conditioning.
  • Most of our socializing is accomplished with a wave of the hand in passing. Just to be friendly.
  • My road used to be a dirt cut-through road from the main road to the little Quaker church at the bottom of the hill. Thus, some of the houses date back to the late 1800s and placed in a kinda willy-nilly arrangement. My backyard faces my neighbor’s side yard.

Hays.NeighborThief.7.13.20121I’m either the world’s best neighbor, or the world’s worst. You’ll never have to worry about me being all up in your business. I’ve lived here several years and only know three neighbors by name. The neighbor behind me, the one whose side yard faces my back yard, used to bring me vegetables from their garden and we would chat a few minutes. She’d comment about how pretty Sam was and I’d offer a compliment on her and her (presumed) husband’s garden.

To this day, I don’t know the woman’s name. Or her (presumed) husband’s. He brought me some okra last week and it made me stop and think for just a moment that she didn’t bring me anything at all last summer. I remember wondering at some point last summer if he was sick because the garden would sometimes look a little unkempt. It was that thought that pushed me to mow my own yard. I felt if that poor old elderly man (still don’t know his name) can work a garden in this heat, I can mow this yard. And so I did.Garden-Bounty

Flash forward to yesterday. Sam was bugging me for a walk so in the heat of the day, I obliged. I almost grabbed my earbuds and logged into Spotify on my phone, but didn’t. I thought, and those of you who aren’t dog people may think it silly, but I thought I needed to spend the time with Sam—he needed my attention, whether a word was exchanged between us or not, he needed me to be there with him. So I left the earbuds at home and decided I’d just enjoy the sounds of being outdoors, walking through my tiny little neighborhood.

One neighbor was having a yard sale. I waved and smiled as we walked by. The other neighbor, one of the three I know by name, was working in her yard. I stopped and chatted for a moment. She offered Sam a dog treat. We talked about everything, and nothing. Then she told me the girl at the end of the street was moving out. I confessed I didn’t know her and said I really only knew three of my neighbors, her included. I told her I knew the old married couple behind me and that the wife used to bring me food from the garden. I then said something along the line of “I don’t think their garden did so well last year. She didn’t bring me anything at all.”

My neighbor looked at me strangely and said, “She died last spring.”

Probably why she didn’t bring me anything.

My neighbor then proceeded to tell me the sweet old couple were never actually married although they had been together 40 plus years. And the man had 26 kids at last count scattered over the country, most of whom he had contact with. He was a jazz musician in New Orleans back in the day.

Who knew?ostrich-head-in-sand1

 

 

 

Where do you go when you’re not here?

My daughter Nina started having “episodes” back in January. I called them episodes; she referred to it as “watching t.v.” so it wouldn’t alarm the two oldest kids, Landon and Ava. “I watched t.v. twice today” sounds less dramatic than “I blacked out.” Episodes, watching t.v., black out spells…regardless of what we call it, the medical profession calls it seizures

The type of seizures Nina has are called complex partial seizures. They may last for a few seconds, or a few minutes. She may have one or two a day, or a cluster of several on one day and none the next. There’s no body-going-stiff or falling-in-the-floor thing going on. The best way to describe it is an old cliche’—the light’s on but nobody’s home. If you didn’t know what you were witnessing, you’d probably think she was just ignoring you, or daydreaming. When she’s having a seizure, you can’t “shake” her out of it, or shout loudly at her to bring her out of it—believe it or not, this IS the first instinct when witnessing one. It has to run its course and usually lasts for seconds but can last for several minutes. Those are the scary ones.

And when she does come out of it, she knows she’s had a seizure but has no knowledge of the length, or what happened while in its clutches. She has no memory 0f the time away.

The Epilepsy Foundation says this about complex partial seizures: These seizures usually start in a small area of the temporal lobe or frontal lobe of the brain. They quickly involve other areas of the brain that affect alertness and awareness. So even though the person’s eyes are open and they may make movements that seem to have a purpose, in reality “nobody’s home.” If the symptoms are subtle, other people may think the person is just daydreaming. Some people can have seizures of this kind without realizing anything has happened. The seizure can wipe out memories of events just before or after it.

And so I take a lot of pictures and I document the silly things the kids do—and yes, I post them all over Facebook. I refuse to let the seizures rob her of one second of these babies’ lives.

Of course there are things she’d probably rather not remember. Like Casey painting the wall with poop. Or Ireland getting stuck with duct tape to the side of the bed. Don’t ask.  Or any one of Ivy’s historic meltdowns. Or Ava’s broken arm. Or Landon’s disappointment when he struck out at bat.

But at least when she wants to look back at all these moments—the good, the bad, and the ugly—she’ll be able to.  Like any parent, you turn her head for a split second and you’ve missed the moment. And I miss them, too. My camera, or energy level, doesn’t capture every moment but I think I do okay in capturing a decent variety.

Landon and Ava know about the seizures now.They knew something was wrong and wondered what mom “watching t.v.” had to do with why she couldn’t drive anymore. The three youngest, Ivy, Casey, and Ireland, are still too young to know anything is different. They don’t really care who’s driving the vehicle as long as mom is riding shotgun.

 

Hopping from here to there

I’m participating in the World Blog Hop this week with several other writer friends. Thanks to Tanya Stowe, a fellow writer with Pelican Books, for asking me to play along. Please take a moment and check out her blog and books…you won’t be disappointed!

Tanya is an author of Christian Fiction with an unexpected edge. She fills her stories with the unusual…gifts of the spirit and miracles, mysteries and exotic travel, even an angel or two. No matter where Tanya takes you…on a journey to the Old West or to contemporary adventures in foreign lands…be prepared for the extraordinary. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hearts Haven Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now a little about my writing and the process…I am the author of the best-selling True Crime book, Unholy Covenant (Addicus Books, 2000), and an award-winning fiction author. My debut novel, The Rising (Pelican Book Group, 2013), won the 2013 Grace Award for Excellence in Faith Based Fiction. It is also short-listed for an INSPY award. My private eye novel, Wink of an Eye, won the 2013 St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America Best 1st PI Novel competition. It will be released through Minotaur Books, Nov. 18, 2014. I am honored to be represented by Michelle Johnson at Inklings Literary Agency.

Currently, I’m working on a new mystery called NoBody’s Baby, about a small town newspaper owner involved in a murder investigation. I hope to have it finished by the end of summer. I think one element that sets my work apart from others is the way I use description. I try and make it become part of the story rather than an information dump. I also feel setting should be a secondary character. Having a character see a handmade sign reading Jesus Saves along a dirt road says much about the area the story is taking place in. I enjoy writing mysteries because I enjoy peeling back the layers until everything is exposed and the ultimate truth is revealed. To me, a mystery doesn’t have to have a murder or some other heinous crime to be considered a true mystery. Life itself is a mystery so there’s so much more to it than how the detective is going to find the killer. When I start a new novel, I know the beginning and end. I’ll do a rough outline to fill in the middle to help me get from point A to point B. I’m not one of those writers who crank out 5000 words a day, or five pages, or some other number. More power to them. I just can’t do it. I may go two or three days without writing anything at all, but when I sit down at the computer, what I do write is carefully thought out. I struggle over every word. Although it takes me longer to complete the first draft than perhaps other writers, when that first draft is complete, it doesn’t need nearly as much revising as if I had just thrown it out there. I guess it’s an either/or situation.

So that’s how I do it. Next Monday, June 30, you’ll be able to find out how three of my writing friends work their own brand of magic. Check out their links below:

Chief Silverii2

Scott Silverii:  Chief of Police Scott Silverii, PhD passionately lives a positive life. With over 24 years in policing, he has the experience and vision to believe there is always an opportunity to help people. Scott’s passion flourished while growing up in a close-knit community within south Louisiana’s heart of Cajun Country.

Scott’s life is seasoned by the Mardi Gras, hurricanes, humidity, and crawfish boils. This gumbo of experience serves up a unique perspective in his writing – but don’t let the smile fool you. Chief Silverii spent 16 of his 24 years working in policing’s special operations groups (SOG) with thousands of undercover narcotics and SWAT missions. He’s bought dope, banged down doors, and busted bad guys.

He’s new to the world of fiction writing, but entered with guns a blazing with his most recent project – A Cajun Murder Mystery Series. This episodic adventure takes readers behind the badge and along the bayous of south Louisiana. As Chief Silverii likes to say – Laissez les bons temps rouler – Until somebody gets killed of course.

Chief Silverii is also available and appreciates the opportunities to work with authors looking for honest and authentic information on police procedural and cop character / culture questions. You can contact him at his website noted above.

Lynette Hall Hampton aka Agnes Alexander:  Lynette has never considered herself a Christian fiction writer, but instead a Christian who writes fiction. Under the name Lynette Hall Hampton she has published 16 novels – mystery, romance, romantic suspense and inspirational. Though she still writes a variety of genres, in 2011 she decided to concentrate on writing what she most likes to read, Western Historical Romance. She chose to write these novels under her pen name, Agnes (her grandmother’s name on her mother’s side) Alexander (her grandfather’s name on her father’s side). In 2012, her first western, “Fiona’s Journey” was published. Since then she’s had six more published and has two under contract to come out in 2014. Me

A life-long resident of her home state of North Carolina, she counts traveling as one of her passions. She has visited 48 of the 50 States and says Alaska and Hawaii are on her bucket list. Of course, she loves to read, but tries to limit herself to one or two books a week. Besides traveling and reading, Agnes enjoys jewelry making, watching old movies and spending time with her family, especially her two grandchildren.

 

 

 

Nicky LaMarco:  Nicky LaMarco is a freelance writer who’s written for a variety of magazines, newsletters and websites. She specializes in writing articles, blogs, books, and essays. Nicky lives in Maine with her husband and two kids. headshot

My dad

Just some random memories of my dad I thought I’d share this Father’s Day…

Coming down the mountain

When my kids were in school there was always a teachers’ workday around the third week in October. If you live in NC, you know that’s prime mountain time. I would take a day of vacation and would load the kids, and daddy, in the car and head to the mountains. Mom didn’t care for the winding roads so she didn’t care to go. On one particular trip we headed to Grandfather Mountain. I drove because by this time, daddy had lost most of his vision to macular degeneration. So we did our thing at the mountain and when it was time to leave (to drive down the mountain), I froze. I had a panic attack to be all panic attacks. I was terrified to drive down the mountain. So daddy drove. And although the man was considered legally ‘visually impaired’, I felt more safe with my daddy getting us down that mountain than I had confidence in myself to do it. Down at the bottom of the mountain, he pulled over and we switched drivers like it was nothing.

Is that Johnny Cash’s house?

We took a family vacation every summer. More often than not, one or two of my friends would go with us. One of those vacations was to Nashville, TN. Susan went with us that time. Susan was always a big picture taker and was snapping pictures of everything. So we’re doing the drive by tour of some of Nashville’s greatest stars’ homes and we get to Johnny Cash’s house. Daddy slows down so Susan can take a picture. But she can’t quite get the shot so she asks daddy if he would take it from the driver’s window. Sure, he says. So she hands him the camera and he clicks away. Later, after we’re back home Susan has her pictures developed and there’s one we can’t figure out. It’s of something rather odd looking we can’t identify. Then Susan starts counting the shots she’s missing and realizes she doesn’t have the shot of the Cash house. We go back and look a little closer at the odd one and sure enough, if you turned it this way and that way, daddy had taken a perfect up-close picture of his ear. I think Susan added to her photo book as “Johnny Cash’s house.”

That’s one ugly kid

When my son Garey was born, daddy spent almost every hour staring through the nursery window at his new grandson. Proud isn’t a strong enough word to describe him at that time. So like a lot of the new grandparents. he had to point out to every stranger sharing space at the window which one was his grandson. Keep in mind, my dad would strike up a conversation with anyone. So he’s at the window chatting up this other man and points to this baby in the nursery and says something along the line of “bless his heart – that is one ugly baby.’ Well, yeah. The ugly baby was that man’s newborn son. My dad could talk his way out of a lot of things but I think that one time he just shut up.

Ham biscuits and conversations

Back in the early days of owning the newspaper, daddy would ride with me and help me deliver. He suggested adding a few stops up along Randleman Road, coincidentally there was a Biscuitville right up the road. So every delivery day, we’d hit Biscuitville and he’d get a ham biscuit and small Pepsi. Then on the stops where he’d take the papers in, I’d sit in the car an extra ten or fifteen minutes waiting because he’d strike up a conversation with whomever was there. Sometimes I even had to go in and gently remind him we still had several more stops.

Um…my finger’s stuck in the door

My dad owned his own heating and air conditioning company and had several doctors as clients. One doctor owned property near Reidsville that had a fishing pond. He invited daddy and some friends to come fishing. I pitched a hissy because I wanted to go, too. So daddy let me go. I got my line hung up in a tree and daddy had to get it unstuck. I wouldn’t bait my own hook so daddy had to do it. I wouldn’t get the tiny little fish I caught off the line so daddy had to do it. I got my line caught in the tree, again, so daddy had to get it unstuck, again. My dad had the patience of Job but I was quickly becoming a pain in the ass. They finally decided to call it a day and packed up to come home. I don’t remember the friends daddy had with him that day but I do remember daddy was riding in the passenger side of the front seat and I was behind him in the back seat. With my little finger stuck in the slammed door. I had been such a pain in the patooty the whole time, I was too scared to tell him he’d shut my little finger in the door! I rode all the way home from Reidsville with it stuck in the car door.

Turn…Turn… Turn!

I was never really good with moving, mechanical stuff. Santa brought me and my sister a little mini dirt bike for Christmas one year. First time on it, I rode it straight into the house. Same with the riding lawn mower. So really, it’s daddy’s fault. He should have known better than to let me anywhere near his motorcycle. I’m bugging him to teach me how to drive the thing so he lets me take it for a spin around the house. Everything is going good until I have to turn. Straight into the side of his Suburban. Not only do I total his motorcycle, I’ve really messed up the Suburban. I remember sitting in the Emergency Waiting Room with him. He didn’t say a word. Not. one. word.

Father'sDay2_0002

Daddy and his brother, Sammy Chandler

 

Father'sDay2_0003

Daddy helped found and build Woodlake Baptist Church. Somewhere in the walls of that church, before the sheetrock went up, he placed two pocket-sized New Testaments dedicated to Garey and Nina.

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Daddy and Uncle Sammy, 1945.

It’s okay to be average

Facebook didn’t exist when my kids were little. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t exist when my kids were little. Nor Instagram or Snapchat or Twitter. I don’t remember scheduling “play dates” for my kids. They played with one another and/or the neighborhood kids. I don’t remember anything called Mommy’s Morning Out or any other ‘mommy group’.

Sure, there was always that mom in the neighborhood, or at school, or at church who kids’ poop didn’t stick.  Their kid walked when they were 6 months old! Was potty trained before they were two! Had a three-thousand word vocabulary before their third birthday. Could even read on a second grade level before kindergarten. And were so darn cute, their moms were looking at modeling agencies.

Yeah, if you’re a mother, you’ve probably experienced the mother of all mothers. And not only was it their job to raise the perfect kid, they took on the added responsibility of letting you know what you were doing wrong. In subtle, snarky remarks, of course.

Those moms still exist and, lucky us, social media has made it so easy for them to share their perfect worlds. Their perfect nurseries. Their perfect homemade, organic lunches. Their neatly arranged educational toy bins.

More power to you, perfect mom. But I’d be willing to bet there are a heckuva lot more ‘average’ moms out there than there are perfect.

Caseypirate

Here’s looking at you, kid.

Young mothers these days are putting way too much pressure on themselves. Every mother starts out with the grand goal of being perfect. No one wants to be ‘average’. But sometimes, this little thing called reality, gets in the way. That perfect nursery will have crayon marks on the perfectly painted walls and, unless you’re an odor shaman, will smell like pee or poop. The precious little ones will turn their cute little noses up at the thought of a homemade, organic lunch once they get a taste of cheese doodles and brownies. And those educational toys – just wait until they see a Tonka truck, or gads! – a toy gun. And for those mothers who actually have more than one child, kids fight. A lot. They can be mean little snots. Yes – you’re perfect kid may have a mean streak. Deal with it. And, funny as it seems, the meanest kids usually have the most perfect mothers. So there’s your motivation to bypass perfect and aim to be average.

Average moms have a collection of mismatched tiny socks hidden under couch cushions, behind the bookcase, and stuffed in the toy bins. Sometimes even stuffed inside the toys. Their kids eat cereal for lunch. And sometimes supper. And sometimes on the same day. They eat pizza and hot dogs cut into tiny triangles. And they eat a lot of chicken nuggets. They will have more fun with the box a hundred-dollar toy came in than the toy itself, so save yourself the money.

And if you have more than one, call in reinforcements for the big stuff. I went to the beach last weekend with Nina and Allen. With three toddlers, even the simplest of activities takes some planning. Allen and Landon went with Nina’s dad and half-brother out on the boat one day. Nina and I were going to take the three toddlers and Ava to the pool. Then we realized both of us would have to be in the pool at all times holding one or two kids at the same time. So we settled for going to the beach instead, where we figured the kids could at least play in the sand. After parking, only one problem with that…we had to cross the street to get to the shore. Three toddlers, a seven year-old, two bags of towels, fruit snacks, and sippy cups, and two chairs. meandNina

That was an accomplishment. Here’s to the average mom.