Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pssss...Secret Keepers is out

by Mindy Friddle

How I got the call? Funny you should ask. I'll tell you...a few paragraphs down. You can also find out how to win a "seedy character" package and a free signed copy of Secret Keepers. Scroll on if you like. Or take your time and read about the inspiration behind Secret Keepers, my second novel, just out this week from St. Martin's Press:

While I was writing an early draft of Secret Keepers, I trained to become a Master Gardener. The Master Gardener program teaches volunteers to be community educators by providing information on horticulture and environmentally sound gardening practices. I soon expanded my own garden, which is a National Wildlife Federation "Certified Wildlife Habitat," to include native plants, and I incorporated some of what I learned in the novel itself.

Many of the plants featured in Secret Keepers are real -- Amaranthus (or “pigweed”), for example, is an ancient Incan plant grown from seed in my own garden. Love-Lies-Bleeding is one of my favorite kinds of Amaranthus. It's gorgeous. And what a name, right?

Tongue orchids, which have evolved deceitful abilities to lure pollinators, actually exist. (Think Dynasty. Alexis Carrington. Crafty seductresses, those tongue orchids.) Dragon Arum -- Dracunculus vulgasis -- a plant that smells like rotten meat to attract flies actually exists, too. However, other botanicals in the novel tip into magical realism: “Secret Keepers,” for instance: a purely fictional flower with a potent aroma that evokes a powerful memory of love in a person’s life. After taking a whiff of a Secret Keeper, one character recalls the smell of her first son’s newborn head; another remembers the nape of his long lost lover's neck.

“Soul Shines,” with their eerie, petaled eyes, are preternaturally sensitive flowers, and seem to perceive a person’s feelings (or character). In one scene, Soul Shines appear to look back at a resident in a nursing home courtyard and provide comfort as she recalls her long dead fiancĂ©; in another scene, they lean and shine toward their homeless caretaker in a bank parking lot, and shrink away from his estranged brother, a bank manager.

If you're interested in learning more about the backstory of Secret Keepers-- how The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the tales of nineteenth century plant hunters, and an old letter in a trunk all helped inspire the story-- feel free to visit my website page The Story Behind Secret Keepers. And if you want to know about the bootylicious story behind the cover of Secret Keepers--those boots are on my front porch as we speak-- visit my post "The Bootylicious Cover Story of Secret Keepers" on my blog, Novel Thoughts.

So. About the call. For my first novel, The Garden Angel, the call came one fine May day in 2003. I was walking my dog in the park, trying not to feel stressed that I hadn't had the call. My agent (I'd met a client of the agency at Breadloaf, I queried; my agent then agreed to represent me after reading my first chapters. She asked for the whole manuscript...which I hadn't yet finished. But she provided valuable feedback, and so after a year or two we had a novel to shop) had sent my manuscript out to some editors about a week previously and there's nothing more nail-biting than that...waiting. And so I'd taken my dog for a walk, and not taken my phone with me. That was not accidental--on a subconscious level. I came back and there was a voicemail from my agent who said, "I have some nice news." Indeed. Oh, yes. An editor had "fallen in love" and that's all it takes. An editor to fall in love.

And now for the contest: If you'd like a chance for a free signed hardback copy of Secret Keepers, along with a "seedy character" package of seeds from my own garden--including Amaranthus, Moon Flower Vine, and Hyacynth Bean Vine (and if you don't plant, you can always give them away...and Mother's Day is imminent you know)-- email me: 1) your name 2) your mailing address and 3) in the subject line of the email write "Good Blog Contest." Email me at by midnight next Friday, May 8. I'll have a disinterested party choose a name out of a hat and that name could be yours. I'll post the winner's name on my blog.

One more thing. I'm about to embark on a book tour, and I really hope to see you there. Here are dates and places. More to come. Check my website appearances page for details and updates:

Thursday, May 14 Quail Ridge Books & Music;

Friday, May 15th McIntyre's Fine Books & Bookends, 2 pm;

Sunday, May 17 Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe 3:00 PM

Monday, May 18, 7:15 pm Georgia Center for the Book,Decatur Library Auditorium;

Thursday, May 21 6-8:30 pm Metropolitan Arts Council, Greenville SC (Books sold by The Open Book)

Friday May 29, Litchfield Books, Moveable Feast Luncheon

Tuesday, June 2 , Burry Bookstore, Book & Author Luncheon, Noon-2 pm

Thursday, June 4th, Fireside Books & Gifts, 4:30-6:30 pm

Saturday, June 6, City Lights Bookstore, 7:30 pm

Friday, June 12, 7 pm, Leopard Forest Coffee Company

Saturday, June 13, 2-4 pm, Fiction Addiction

Mindy Friddle's first novel, The Garden Angel, was selected for Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers program in 2004 and was a SIBA bestseller. Awarded a 2009 Artist Fellowship in Prose from the South Carolina Arts Commission, she earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson. Her second novel, Secret Keepers, is just out from St. Martin's Press. Join her on Facebook and Twitter.Visit her website and her blog, Novel Thoughts.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Winning the Literary Lottery!

In April, 2007, my originally self-published novel, The Richest Season, sold at auction to Hyperion Books in a 2 book hardcover deal.

A writers blog referred to it as “winning the literary lottery.” I had to laugh. Because it implied that getting published was as simple as buying a ticket and waiting for a number to be drawn.

Hah! If only it were that easy. My ordeal in trying to get my novel taken spanned 6 years in total. The Richest Season was shelved in a closet no less than 3 times, as I became frustrated and gave up on the publishing world again and again.

But I kept hearing the same refrain from people who’d read the manuscript in a fat 3 ring binder: Your book is better than anything I’ve read in months. Why isn’t it out there?

That question, which I heard over and over for several years, made me want to scream! Yes, I knew I had a wonderful book! I knew it was well written because I took years to carefully craft it. It began as my Master’s thesis. And NO, I had no blankety blank idea why it wasn’t taken!
But….as a big birthday approached I began to do some soul searching.

I wanted to keep writing. I didn’t want to give up. But what defined success to me as a writer? To be read! And to move people when they read my work. I wanted The Richest Season to be out there in reader land, for people to know about Joanna, Grace and Paul, three characters who I believed deserved to live in reader’s imaginations. I wanted them to fall in love with Pawleys Island, as I had more than 20 years ago.

And so I decided to take one of the biggest gambles in my life: to self-publish The Richest Season. After all, I reasoned, if I could sell houses, which I’d done very successfully for nearly 20 years by then, I could sell this book!!!

I found a small print on demand publisher in California which I’d never heard of, and I was hoping no one else had either. I wanted the book judged on its own merits, not with the stigma I knew it would carry if the truth were known.

The Richest Season debuted in May, 2006. I immediately orchestrated a book launch at a local college. I was now feeling like a bit of a fraud, as it got lots of hype in the local media and most people seemed to have no idea it was self-published. I had no idea how many would show up. I was scared to death. Despite a torrential downpour and with little parking nearby, I managed to fill the parlors. One of the first women who came in, who’d gotten the book from Amazon, the only place it was available then, hugged me and said, “I loved your book. I wanted to live it.” I went on to sell over 100 books that night.

I began pounding the pavement. Getting a bookseller to read a self-published book isn’t easy. The big stores and chains simply won’t. So I focused on the independents. I not only got them to read it, once they did, many asked me to come in for signings. Then it became a staff pick in a handful of stores. In one, The Richest Season went on to become their top selling trade paperback for 2006, outselling The Kite Runner.

The next eight months were exhausting as I continued to market my novel in any way I could, while still working. I racked up 25 signings, some library and senior talks, and met with nearly 40 book clubs in 10 states, many via web cam. Reader feedback was unbelievable. And I sold more then 2,000 books, what some literary books do in a lifetime, I learned.

One night in November, I decided to search for an agent again. I sent out e-mail queries and the very next morning got a call from The Victoria Sanders Agency, asking me for an exclusive. I agreed. Eight weeks later they called, asking me to come in.

Meeting Victoria was almost as good as getting “the call.” After a harrowing trip into New York that included snow, ice and a train shut-down because of a terrorist alert, I was rewarded with a smile and these words from Victoria: “This is a wonderful book!” Validation! Finally! Well, almost.

But she was confident it would sell, and also told me she felt it would sell abroad, as well.

Victoria asked me to add a bit more material, something I’d already been thinking about. She then sent copies of the manuscript to major publishers in New York. Meeting some of them in their offices, hearing their compliments on my writing, character development, etc. well…it was surreal!

Shortly afterward, she decided to hold an auction for the rights to The Richest Season. It was an exciting and nerve racking afternoon, waiting for her call. When it came, I was thrilled to learn that Hyperion Books won, offering me a 2 book hardcover deal. This was it! After years of rejection, I was the real deal!

Within a few weeks, Random House in Germany bought German rights in a 5 way auction, and Mondadori took it in Italy in a preempt.

There are still days I can’t quite believe it’s true. I'm now at work on my third novel, with my second, So Happy Together, debuting on July 7! I am what I had always dreamed of becoming, a real author! And I'd nearly given up.

My advice to aspiring writers with a dream is work hard, persevere, and BELIEVE!

Maryann McFadden lives in NJ, although her heart is in the Lowcountry of SC. She was a freelance writer for ten years, then sold real estate, before returning to writing, her first love. The Richest Season will be released as a trade paperback on June 16. So Happy Together debuts on July 7. You can read more at

Monday, April 27, 2009

Covenant Hall

Our moderator Karin has kindly assigned me this date, April 28, because it coincides with the release of the ninth Bay Tanner mystery, COVENANT HALL, by St. Martin’s Press. The cover, as you can see above, is lovely, probably the best one they’ve ever given me. And the reviews have been wonderful. Kirkus—yes that Kirkus—said CH was “. . . tense, introspective and hard to put down.” You better believe that’s going on all my promo material. Our own Jackie Cooper was equally kind. And even after nine books, it’s still a thrill to hold the real product in my hands at last, to walk into our Hilton Head B&N and see a stack on the Local Authors table.

For the last few books, I’ve tried to create a vivid mental image of the day I actually began a manuscript—date, time, weather, what I was wearing (if it wasn’t my pajamas)—so I can appreciate the entire journey from that moment to this. Those who don’t write full-length fiction may not realize how daunting it is to sit down in front of a blank screen with that vast emptiness staring you in the face, knowing that a deadline looms, eight or twelve months down the road, and knowing also that it’s your job to fill those yawning spaces with letters, pages, chapters. Something others will want to spend their time and money on, an experience they’ll find not just entertaining but worthwhile as well. And then 90,000+ words and all those months later, there are the editorial letters and discussions, rewrites, revisions, more rewrites, copyedits, galley proofing, etc, etc, etc. Often by the time the last version is returned to New York, I feel as if I don’t ever want to lay eyes on the damn thing again.

Obviously, that feeling goes away.

I’m always proud of every book. I know I’ve worked my *** off, not only in the writing, but in the preparing of e-blasts, postcards, bookmarks, signing schedules, appearances, and all the rest of the promotion process that comes with each new entry in the series. I’ve answered countless e-mails, talked it up at groups to which I belong, and hopefully done everything in my power to send my little girl out into the world with the best possible chance to succeed.

Which is why I’ve found the articles here about “getting the call” so interesting. By the time I got it, I’d self-published the first Bay Tanner mystery, IN FOR A PENNY, and had the second, AND NOT A PENNY MORE, picked up by a small regional press. I’d spent the better part of two years playing the query-submission-rejection game and had decided it wasn’t for me. Since I didn’t begin writing seriously until I was nearly fifty, I figured I didn’t have time to waste—The Home was looming larger on my horizon with each passing year. Or at least that’s how it seemed at the time.

So when the phone rang on a spectacular May afternoon here in the Lowcountry, I let my husband pick up. I was on the back deck, overlooking the lush tidal marsh, working on the next manuscript. (Back in the day, I used to write longhand and transcribe to the computer as a first edit.) When he came trotting outside, waving the handset, I thought something was terribly wrong, probably because he could barely speak. “It’s someone from New York,” he gasped in a hoarse whisper. “About your books.”

My first reaction was, “Yeah, right.” But it was, in fact, my first editor at St. Martin’s, who, while visiting family in nearby Beaufort, had chanced upon my first two books. She liked them. So did the editorial committee. And the rest, as they say, is history.

When I finished THE MERCY OAK, the eighth Bay Tanner and the last one in that contract, I’d pretty much resigned myself to packing it in. The precarious state of the publishing industry, along with the rest of the economy, did not bode well for us mid-list authors. Predictions abounded about the death of the printed book, the collapse of the distribution system, and the demise of countless independent booksellers—and some big chains as well. But then I got another call, this one from my agent, saying they wanted at least two more in the series.

So, as you read this, I’m feverishly typing away on the next manuscript while ramping up for the madness that comes with each new release. My husband calls it “putting on our track shoes.” COVENANT HALL is out in the world, and I’m off to do what I can to launch it with all due pomp and ceremony. It’s been a long haul from those first keystrokes to the exhilaration of today.

But that’s my job.

And it’s a damn good one.

Kathy Wall grew up in a small town in northern Ohio. She and her husband Norman have lived on Hilton Head Island since 1994. Her 9th Bay Tanner mystery, Covenant Hall, is officially on sale today from St. Martin’s Press.

The Call

by Cathy Pickens

I came to writing as a reader. That doesn’t, I’ve learned, go without saying. I’ve met several folks at signings who want to write a book but who never read books. That’s another blog.

I love reading, and I knew I wanted to write murder mysteries when I was 11 years old. When I announced that, the head librarian gave me old copies of The Writer Handbook and back issues of The Writer and Writer’s Digest, on their way to the landfill. I poured over those magazines and books, musty from the library basement.

I wanted to know how all this worked. I realized later I was looking for THE PATH. I figured there was a secret entrance to the magical world of “published author.” All I had to do was find it.

I read and I read. I wrote and I wrote.  For years, I looked and listened for word on the magical entrance.

When Duane Lindsey asked me to write an essay for the book How I Got Published, I wrote about The Path … and about how I discovered, after I was published, that everyone has a different path. I haven’t met a writer yet who got there in exactly the same way any other writer did.

There are some rules, though: Good news comes by phone. Bad news by letter. Don’t wait by the mailbox.

For both my first short story (in the Sisters in Crime/Private Eye Writers of America anthology Deadly Allies II) and my first novel, news came by phone. Sue Dunlap, anthology editor and one of my mystery writing idols, called me on a Sunday afternoon. I managed to hang up the phone before I started jumping around and yelling.

The second phone call came while I sat in my office at Queens University of Charlotte, nearing the end of my five years serving as Provost, not because I ever wanted the job but because the president was quite a salesman. That’s another story.

Anyway, Ruth Cavin, the iconic mystery editor, was calling to tell me I’d won the St. Martin’s Malice Domestic Award.

I calmly thanked her, hung up the phone, nodded to the folks working in my office, walked quickly across campus to my husband’s office, closed the door … and started jumping up and down and yelling.

I had only a faint glimmer of how that would change my life. I was glad to be leaving the administrative job returning to the classroom I loved. But the bigger transition was to one-year deadlines, travel schedules, and life as a real, live mystery writer.

My husband didn’t know either what that meant. That we’d travel to Bristol, England and Anchorage, Alaska, and Boise, El Paso, Tucson, Denver, New York City, and Kings Mountain, North Carolina. 

We’ve had a blast over the last five years, meeting writers (mostly of the murderous type but also folks like Karin Gillespie, blog mistress extraordinaire – that was in southern Kentucky), and running into them again and again. The writing and reading community is a large, ever-changing, welcoming, quirky, bookish, fun bunch.

Six books later, I’m so glad the phone rang.  The secret entrance? Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Learn the business. Perfect your craft. 

Take yourself seriously. Persistence trumps talent every time. 

And take every opportunity, at bookstores, libraries, book festivals, to meet authors, to join the incredible community of readers and writers. The entrance isn’t so secret after all.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Interview with Molly Haskell, Author of Frankly My Dear: Gone With the Wind Revisited

How and why has the saga of Scarlett O'Hara kept such a tenacious hold on our national imagination for almost three-quarters of a century? In the first book ever to deal simultaneously with Margaret Mitchell's beloved novel and David Selznick's spectacular film version of "Gone with the Wind", film critic Molly Haskell seeks the answers. By all industry predictions, the film should never have worked.

What makes it work so amazingly well are the fascinating and uncompromising personalities that Haskell dissects: Margaret Mitchell, David Selznick, and Vivien Leigh.

Explain your fascination with Gone With The Wind?

For members of my generation—teenagers in the fifties and sixties—it was forbidden fruit, a book not on approved reading lists but one we “discovered” and read under the covers with a flashlight. (Margaret Mitchell said her own mother wouldn’t have let her read it until she was 18 years old.) It’s a Southern rite of passage, but my Northern friends were just as entranced with those steel magnolias, the flirtatious, rebellious Scarlett, the graces of the Old South, the clothes, the romance.

Why has the film endured?

For all sorts of reasons: it has appealed to every tribe and nationality across the globe as an expression of resistance to tyranny, of survival against overwhelming odds, a fable of loss and grief as well as thwarted love. It can be read (and was) as a Depression fable, but also as the story of a Jazz Age heroine clinging to the perks of youth. It’s a majestic (if one-sided) civil war story, a widescreen epic that pulls out all the stops, musically and visually, yet never loses sight of the characters who drive the plot. And because thanks to Vivien Leigh’s boldness in the part, her amazingly volatile and complex performance, there’s something still edgy and unresolved about the character of Scarlett.

She remains both heroine and anti-heroine—at once seductive and wicked, mean-spirited and courageous, a spiteful teenager who turns, way ahead of her time, into an extraordinarily smart and tough-minded businesswoman. And however much she suffers, or causes suffering, she’s never brought to heel. That is, she never repents and changes, is never transformed into the socially-acceptable chastened lady, in the time-honored Hollywood fashion.

Supposedly Melanie was originally Mitchell's main character. How did Scarlett steal the show and why do so many women emphasize with her?

She was the first real American heroine to challenge the status quo, the mystique of male supremacy, even the mystique of war itself. And the narrow constraints on the female sex in general. She thought it was a “terrible waste” that women had to spend their entire girlhood learning the arts of attraction and how to catch men, and then only use the knowledge for a year or two. She resisted giving up all that ‘girl-power’ to become a drab matron, relegated to the sidelines at the parties. And yet Mitchell did. Scarlett was Mitchell as Jazz Age rebel, Melanie was the conservative matron she became.

Many actresses were tested for Scarlett. Why was Vivian Leigh chosen?

She was fresh, unknown, didn’t bring any movie-star baggage with her. And she had the beauty, the fire, the determination, and the talent—all apparent from her first screen test.

I've heard you've compared Scarlett to Sarah Palin? What simliarities do they share?

A kind of awesome confidence, a willingness to run roughshod over men, women, the rules of decorum, anything that stands in their way. They have their own startling beauty, which they don’t bother to tone down to become more likable to other women. And they’re unafraid of the distress or unease their grab for power will cause. Even if we don’t like them, we can’t help but admire that fearlessness, even if it does come out of insensitivity: Narcissistic and self-obsessed, they possess zero empathy for the feelings of others, especially of men who might feel threatened.

Could Gone With the Wind be made today and still be successful?

No way. That whole kind of filmmaking is gone with the wind and the studio system. Those effects were real, not computer generated. The craftsmen were all geniuses of a sort. And the casting, it was perfect. Even if the rest could be duplicated, those kinds of stars and the whole dynamic between and among them is a thing of the past.

You're a former film critic. Are their any other films that resonate with you the way Gone With the Wind has?

I still consider myself a film critic, or “film critic and scholar” though I’m not reviewing regularly at the moment. This book is an act of film criticism as much as anything else.
There are movies that I consider greater works of art, thus more resonant for me, even from the banner year of 1939 (e.g. Ninotchka, Young Mr. Lincoln, Only Angels Have Wings, Love Affair). My favorite films are not all woman-centered films.

Do you have a must-see list of films for women?

There are so many, but not many of recent vintage. Just check out any number of movies with: Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Irene Dunne, a few with Jennifer Lopez, Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Sally Field, Sissy Spacek, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis. Some good women’s roles on television series, Tina Fey, Mariska Hargitay. But for the most part, we’re living in a men’s world in movies and the media, and even the chick flicks feature chicks desperate for a rooster!

Molly Haskell is a writer and film critic. She has lectured widely on the role of women in film and is the author of From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies. Visit her at

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I thought the call would never come.

It was like being 14 and covered in acne smothered in Clearasil as I waited and the phone never rang. I’d check the mail daily and huge envelopes, the very ones I’d used to submit my wonderful future Academy-Award winning novel, were empty.

Except for a letter.

“We regret to inform you that your novel, ‘Heartbone’ is lovely and all that good jazz but certainly not suitable for our current list. Agents’ opinions are, indeed, subjective so we wish you all the best in finding eager and enthusiastic representation for your work. All Best.”

Oh, how I HATE to see that stupid-ass phrase, All Best, at the end of every piece of correspondence from New Yawk’s finest.

After spending most of my future-plastic surgery money on postage, I gave up finding an agent and decided I’d have better luck at reproduction.

No such deal. Why, one day I had to cart my former husband’s spermies to the fertility clinic. I tucked the plastic jar of “swimmers” in my little red coat pocket and demurely handed it to the nice nurse.

After a few months of my having quit writing and my husband changing over to boxers (to free up more sperm from suffocation deaths caused by briefs), we conceived.
I quit writing and begin non-stop eating, discovering the most successful career and most rewarding of the time. Buffets were my Pulitzers. Desserts my Golden Globes for “Best Original Screenplay,” or better yet, best Chocolate Molten Lava.

After my son, now 16 and a golfer-slash-juvenile delinquent, was born weighing 6 pounds while I’d gained 60, I decided to dust off my brain and start writing again.

What else does one do at 4 a.m. with her boobs hanging out and draining milk?

I promised myself a page a day. That way, in a year, I’d have my novel. At least the shitty first draft.

Long story short, snail mail was losing its edge and more agents would accept stuff through e-mail.

I compiled a fairly long list of agents, maybe 12, and sent them brazen queries.
I got quite a few of those crappy “All Best,” form letters and THEN…

Ding, ding, ding. The call.

It was Ethan Ellenberg with a great reputation and offices on Broadway in New York.

“I love this,” he said. “I predict it will go to auction.” Stars swam in my eyes along with dollar signs.

Honey, I signed on the line quicker than a ‘ho takes off her knickers. However, sad to say, my wonderful novel (I think it was called The Recycled Virgin) collected more rejections than I can count.

Not to be defeated, I gave up on fiction and tried humorous essays along the lines of my dear friends Celia Rivenbark and Laurie Notaro. Boom! My agent and I managed a hit, and I got another call, this one from a pretty big New York publisher telling me to break open the champagne.

We ended up doing three books – Ethan, Kensington and me. And then it was over.

We all broke up like adults, only I was left a blathering, crying mess.

“I have no agent,” I screamed. “I’m a loser. A has-been. I’m going to get a job now as a hooker at Croaker’s Rest Home.”

Other writers, kind souls we all are, came to my rescue, suggesting other agents.

And that’s how I got the call from Holly Root with Waxman in New York.
Poor Holly. She has my new novel, “Chimes from a Cracked Southern Belle,” which is getting tons of GLOWING praise AND REJECTIONS.

Also, it’s garnered quite a few “All Best’s.”

Susan Reinhardt is a humorist and public speaker. She is a columnist and author of three books, hoping to sell a fourth. Her website is To watch her video shows, go to

Monday, April 20, 2009

Impetus, or How I Got The Call

So blog-mistress Karin has assigned a topic for this month: How I Got The Call. For most on here, I assume, that’s going to involve discussing what was the impetus (ok, digression: I have been using the word “impetus” like it must, this month, be going out of style. Someone alert the word-fashion blogs. You know, the ones that cover how sexy it is to, from mid-March through late July, say things like “sorbet”.) for them writing their first published book.

Since I can’t even finish a whole 500 words on my memoir, I thought I’d take a different path. 

For those who don’t know, by the way, to catch up briefly-I am now in New York, having relocated from Decatur. Doing some freelance book marketing/PR work on the side and trying to find steady employment. (If you’re an author and interested in talking about potential publicity ideas for yourself or your work, email me. I’m serious. I’m fun to email. Especially late at night, when the wine’s open.)

Anyway, so, from my vantage point, I’d like to talk about what’s brought me here. And by “here” I mean what was the impetus (there it is again, seriously folks that word’s going to be like snuggies-totally irrelevant in 2010) that has lead me to, in 2009, to be in New York, a city I swore I’d never move to, only because it’s the home of my industry. And publishing, despite its’ sheer and utter insanity, is something I cling to.

But why books? Why this almost masochistic and definitely insane need to surround myself with the written word, always and forever (you know, like that song at the end of "Napoleon Dynamite")?

When I started thinking about what one moment I could hyperfocus on (mmm, hyperfocus. Implies concentration. Something I’m sadly lacking right now), what shocked me was that what floated to the top of my brain wasn’t, for instance, the way that the classroom sharing copy of Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing only making its way into the hands of the popular kids taught me very quickly to be a book-hoarder. Also, it is definitely not the moment that I got in trouble in high school for reading Atlas Shrugged during a free period. Apparently, folks, Atlas Shrugged is “smut”. And while I may agree to some level (bookz wit ideaz r scary u guyz!)…just, actually, no. I can’t agree with that at all. Especially since, um, I was there, and I was the one having to explain to the principal of my school why this novel’s concepts were actually forcing me to come to my own conclusions and discover my own moral and ethical foundations far faster and to much greater extents than any of the crap they’d been trying to teach at school.

No, I actually started thinking about, in writing this post, the first college lit professor who ever made an impact on me. At Oglethorpe, where I went to school, literature came before everything-before personal health, even. And I had a professor, who I won’t name because I know he’s out there, lurking the fringes of the internet, who forever thwarted my ability to have reading be a passive, complacent act.

The class was Modern Literature. The time was smack-dab in the middle of the morning, when brains aren’t yet functioning on the “need lunch” level nor in the “had lunch” coma. The classroom was, as most classrooms at Oglethorpe at this time were, hot in the summer and teeth-chattering cold in the winter (Oglethorpe’s decision to choose the gorgeous stone castle-esque appearance of its campus over functioning indoor heating and air left a lasting impression on me, and to this day I choose appearance over functionality). The book selection was, in retrospect, eye-rollingly liberal arts: Lolita. Song of Solomon. Rabbit, Run. But, coming from someone (namely, me) who had never previously had anyone have any sort of guiding hand over my reading choices other than my grandmother forbidding me from reading Anne Rice, it was like carefully selected wine and cheese pairings from a master sommelier.

Which brings me to the professor: old. Curmudgeonly. An obvious expert in his field. And, as all of us in that class would come to discover, utterly ruthless in his desire to push us to the highest levels of literary analysis.

After a brief, easy-peasy introductory period to the class, of about two days, we were presented with our first major assignment-to, essentially, get over that whole “pedophiliac” thing in Lolita. It was assigned as such, of course, but when Lolita’s handed without preface or intro to a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears college freshman, all wide-eyed and hungry and ‘wanting” to be “writers” or crap like that, obviously unfamiliar with the work as such but aware that Nabokov is spoken about in hushed tones with reverence, usually at parties that also feature ritz cracked trussed up with a mixture of salmon and ranch dressing, that’s what’s being reached for.

Now, remember, I went to school in the south, so even at a private, tiny-as-hell liberal arts college, there are many students with a sheltered, wide-eye naivety to the way the world works. All of these students reached a climax of utter and epic breakdown when our professor asked, on Monday morning, for someone to “defend” Humbert Humbert’s relationship with little Lo.

Spoiler: NO ONE COULD. And he became enraged, asking us to overthrow our constructed-by-society (his words here) disdain for a relationship involving a much older man with a young girl. And so, for our first essay assignment, we were assigned three pages-one page was to be in defense of H.H.’s claim of having “love” for Lolita (don’t get me into the unpacking of the term “love” that required several class periods), on refuting it, and one coming to our own conclusions.

It was that final page that gave me, and everyone in that class, the most trouble. But the grunting, screaming, pointing, crying and throwing things that coming to one’s “own conclusion” elicited also lead to an Augustine-ish moment of AH-HA. 

In that moment, the ability to assimilate and accommodate two varying viewpoints began to form in me.

All of these lessons come to me in retrospect, mind you. At the time, the class was just really, really damn hard. Classmates of mine cried daily, both in and out of class-moreso in, actually. I remember the night I stayed up, possibly under the influence of something and possibly not, diagramming my theory that Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom was meant to be akin to the most true reading of Jesus Christ as possible. 

In class, I excitedly asked if I could present my idea. Given permission, I jumped to the board and spent a god 15 minutes outlaying my ideas. Taking in the scribbles I’d made on the board, the professor mumbled and asked me if I was done. “Yes” I replied, anxious for the rare praise I was sure was about to lavished upon me. “Good, sit down” was the only reply.

Yeah, I cried. A lot. 

Fact of the matter is, that professor taught me what a painful, ass-biting, nail-strewed road the love of literature really is. And I fell so hard for it that I took his class entirely devoted to Ulysses (which is now my favorite book, mostly because he pulled the curtain back and showed up the true juvenile bathroom humor that is the classic’s core). 

So yeah, the call-the call to literature, to devoting my life, too-small salaries and senselessness and all-came when I was 18 and freezing every mid-morning in that Modern Lit class. 

That also started me on my path to being an utter book snob. But that’s a conversation for another time.

Russ Marshalek recently relocated(and almost wrote "graduated") from Decatur, GA to NYC. He’s a freelance book marketer and publicist and will gladly entertain your project. Entertain as in discuss not entertain as in make a cake for. Keep up with him at his blog, or email him. He is also, for those heading to NY for BEA 2009, part of the team spearheading the BEA Tweetup.
We’ve started a few new things at A GOOD BLOG IS HARD TO FIND. Now through May, we’ll have theme blogs, and the first theme is “How I Got the Call.” Not all of our bloggers will be blogging on that topic but many will. Additionally, we’ll have a weekly ASK THE AUTHOR. Scroll back a couple of entries to find the first one. Finally, we’ll be periodically running contests, giving away books. Scroll back to the entry before this one to see how you can win a copy of Picking Cotton.

Thanks for reading!

HOW I GOT THE CALL by Karin Gillespie

The best part of my very first writer’s conference was hanging out at the bar and listening to writer war stories. Several attendees had agents, and I thought, “Wow! An agent of their very own. They’ve got it made in the shade.” I wanted to inhale their same lofty air, hoping success was contagious.

But the more I listened, the darker the stories became. Yes, some writers had agents but that didn’t mean their books had sold. I’d always assumed an agent was the equivalent of a golden ticket into the Kingdom of Published Authors.

“Not so,” they’d say, tossing back shots of whiskey, jaded looks in their eyes. One would-be author took me aside and said, “Forget about ever getting published, honey chile. Try something easy… hic… like brain surgery.”

Admittedly the odds were against me. I didn’t have an English degree, I’d written only one miserable trunk novel (completely autobiographical about a doomed love affair) and everything I knew about the pub biz I could write on the head of a pin.

Still…instead of getting discouraged I felt the stirrings of a challenge. That very evening, in my hotel room, I started a new novel. I decided, whatever it took, I was going to come back to that conference with a book contract in hand.

A couple of months later, I’d written a few chapters, and I attended The Sandhills Writers Conference in my hometown of Augusta, Georgia. A faculty member, Robert Bausch, evaluated the piece and loved it. He promised me that if I finished my novel within a year, he’d recommend me to his agent.

I was THRILLED because I assumed that writers needed to have an inside connection to get published, and finally I had one.

At the same conference I met some like-minded writers, and we started a novel critique group. We met every two weeks and by the time my year deadline arrived, I’d pounded out a three-hundred page novel.

I wrote to Robert who promptly gave me the name of his agent. I crafted a query letter, sent it off, and shortly afterwards… I was rejected.

I’d come too far to let one agent dash my hopes so I started sending out more queries, (using Jeff Herman's Guide Book, which seems slightly antiquated in this Internet age) and finally I got a nibble.

It was an exhilarating nibble because the agent actually called me at work (a real live agent… one the phone!). Breathlessly she said, “SEND IT ALL!” as if she were having an asthma attack and my novel was an inhaler.

She kept sending me these email updates, every hour: STILL LOVING IT! But eventually they came to a dead stop… And then I didn’t hear from her again until a week later.

“I’m not in love with the ending,” she wrote. (That’s agent speak for “Your ending turns my stomach. I CURSE the hand who wrote that ending.”)

Of course, now that I’d gotten a bite, I wasn’t letting it go. Promising extensive re-writes and cases of Dom Perignon, I begged her to let me have another chance to wow her.

She agreed. When I sent her another version, she hemmed-hawed and finally said, “Okay.”

My agent began to send out the novel, and suddenly EDITORS were rejecting my work. (A whole slew of them). Eventually there was one who said if I made some more changes, maybe she could take me on—no promises, though.

So I got busy again, sent it off and then, one golden afternoon it came: THE CALL!


A lot of exciting things have happened to me since then, but I’ll never, ever forget the call. Bottles of wine, hazardous fireworks and the Blue Angels marked the occasion.

And yes, I went back to the conference, this time as a published author, and I hung out in the bar. As I tossed back my whiskey, I said to all the aspiring authors. “Lishen up, y’all…hic… If I can do it…hic… so can you!”

Please visit Karin at her blog where she dishes on books, baby boomers and (occasionally) Brangelina.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Book Spotlight

Picking Cotton A Memoir by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton with Erin Torneo

In 1984, in Burlington N.C, twenty-three-year-old Jennifer Thompson was raped at knifepoint by a man who broke into her apartment while she slept. She was able to escape, and eventually positively identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker. Ronald insisted that she was mistaken-- but Jennifer's positive identification was the compelling evidence that put him behind bars. After eleven years, Ronald was allowed to take a DNA test that proved his innocence. He was released, after serving more than a decade in prison for a crime he never committed. Two years later, Jennifer and Ronald met face to face-- and forged an unlikely friendship that changed both of their lives.

How could she make such a huge mistake? Here’s an explanation as well as an eyewitness test you can take yourself.

Picking Cotton is an immensely readable memoir about forgiveness and redemption. The video below is absolutely wrenching, and you don’t doubt Jennifer’s sorrow and remorse for one second.

CONTEST: Win a copy of Picking Cotton by making a comment on any blog next week starting Monday and emailing the blog master at nechespublicity @ Winner will be announced next Saturday.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ask the Author

Q. How do you deal with writer’s block?

A. One sure way to combat writer’s block is to write every day at about the same time of day. It’s almost as if you’re making an appointment with the muse. Once you start standing her up, she might not come 'round no more.

Sometimes a writer is blocked because he or she has made a wrong turn in the story or is forcing a character to do something he or she doesn’t want to do. Try going in a totally different direction and see if that doesn’t clear up the block.

Leaving the computer for a few minutes can usually clear up minor blocks. Do something mindless and repetitive like running, vaccuming or swilling scotch (jest kidding... kind of) to allow your subconscious to work on the problem.

When it comes to heavy-duty blocks, it might be a good idea to abandon the manuscript for a while and start on something completely different. Stephen King was blocked when he wrote The Stand and he dumped it, thinking he’d never solve his narrative problems. Shortly after he started working on something else, a solution arrived.

It’s important to know that almost every writer experiences block at one time or another, but the block always clears up. Don’t be in a hurry; don’t start freaking out about a deadline. Always have complete faith that the answer will come, grasshopper.

Here are some additional tips.

Feel free to chime in with your own tips.

Have a question for Ask the Author? Email nechespublicity @

Lit Links

Free lectures to make you a better writer.

Checklist of fiction faults from science fiction writer Ray Nelson

How to increase your word count from author Jennifer Hudson Taylor

How to write the second novel by Stephanie Kallos

Very funny essay on an embarrassing book signing by Ken Burger

Faceboo? Twitter? Negotiating the thorny world of social networks

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Next Fedora: On Writing As A Second Career

The sun is sinking low over another workday in Rotunda Town, the air so humid you’d be thankful for Marlowe’s infamous Santa Ana wind, when it hits you. You’re staring down the barrel of a half-century’s tenure on the planet. With no backup. No ammunition and no prospects standing between you and the end of the fun house. Life has boiled down to a scratched DVD of The Office skipping on permanent rerun interspersed with the occasional eight AM city road rage.

Take heart.

Millions of your compadres are discovering another lease on life. They even have a nifty buzzword for it these days: “Encore Career.” While you may be feeling that your first career is hardly deserving of an encore, don’t let that distract you. Get on with plans for whatever you’re supposed to be getting on to.

And for many of us, what better endeavor might that be than getting in touch with our own latent literary talents? After all, what poor part-time scribbler with years full of journals, stories, or just ideas, hasn’t dreamed about making the leap to the promised land of commercial publication, there to discover fame and riches not to mention critical adulation? The very notion conjures up visions of peace, contentment, and relaxation, interrupted only on occasion by inspiring bits of work far removed from the nine-to-five variety.

Get a grip.

Writing for publication is a job. It can be an exciting and rewarding job, full of variety and even the occasional inspiration, but unless the would-be career changer is willing to fall in love with the work of writing itself the most likely prognosis is for great disappointment if not downright disillusionment.

If you’re serious about pursuing a second career in writing, you’ll need to make an honest assessment of your abilities and prospects and detailed plans for enhancing both. You’ll need to spend some serious time researching your options. Do you go for a job in journalism, for example, or do you freelance? Will you write articles, essays, or short stories? Non-fiction or fiction? Books or shorter works? What about poetry? Can you afford to live with an inconsistent source of income? The answers to each of these questions will determine, in great part, how your writing career develops.

My advice? Figure out where your passion lies. Weighed down with years of training, maybe even prestigious degrees in your first career, you may be tempted to want to piggy back on your previous years of experience. Indeed, in some cases this might be a wise choice. But a better question might be: What do you love to read for pleasure? If you choose to right in the same field or genre(s) you read in your spare time then your chances of developing a fulfilling career will be much higher.

I was lucky—my own mid-life dream of being a writer bloomed about ten years early, but even then it took me a while to find my particular voice, a discovery I finally made by asking myself the above question and realizing how much I enjoyed reading crime fiction and especially private eye novels.

The classic Bogey-style fedora has long been recognized as a symbol of the PI genre. But I also remember my father, an engineer industrialist sportin
g one back in the nineteen sixties. The fedora didn’t signify anything so romantic as the mythical midnight detective for me then. I associated the hat with my father going off to work each morning, day after day after day. Writing is like that: A blast, for sure, but for most of us, also a lot of plain hard work.

What will be your next fedora?

You say you want to write. The shingle is hung and the office door lies open. I’ll leave a light on for you.

(The next novel in the Shamus award-winning Frank Pavlieck series, Kitty Hitter, will be released in August.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Saying Goodbye

My Chocolate Lab was more than a faithful friend, loyal protector and traveling companion: he was my writing buddy. Every morning for nearly fifteen years, Jefferson found his favorite spot on the rug underneath my desk where he endured everything with equal aplomb – my mutterings when a character didn’t behave, my tears over career disappointments, my giddiness over finding just the right phrase, just the right word. He’d let me know with wet, sloppy licks to my hands and bare feet that I was not only his beloved human mama and favorite person in the whole Universe, but I was also a genius.

Though I provided his food and shelter, bought his toys and treats, and trained him in doggie manners, I never “owned” Jefferson. We simply took care of each other.

In winter when the temperatures in Mississippi dropped below freezing and my house felt cold no matter what the thermostat read, he’d let me slip off my shoes and warm my cold feet against his warm fur. In spring when daffodils and forsythia, azaleas and Bradford pear blossoms festooned my yard, he’d grab his Frisbee in his big mouth, press it into my hands and insist I leave the computer to go outside for a romp in the sunshine.

In the summer of 2007 when I was searching for a way to transform an ordinary mystery plot into something extraordinary, he gave me the perfect answer. Make Elvis a dog.

In the deep winter of 1997 as I drove the fifteen hundred miles home from New Hampshire where I’d attended the birth of my second granddaughter, gentle-natured Jefferson showed just how fierce a hundred-pound dog can be. When I was frightened by a trucker in a small Pennsylvania town whose name I no longer remember, when I took a ten-minute nap on the grass in a welcome center in the Shenandoah Valley, when we got caught in the middle of a thunderstorm in Knoxville and somebody tried to get into our less-than-desirable motel room, Jefferson became “Killer,” all hackles and fearsome growls and warning barks.

Jefferson and I pranced our way from the rocky seacoasts of Maine to the white sandy beaches of Florida. We frolicked through the summers of his youth and my prime. We grew gray together.

Then it came time to say goodbye. A stroke stole his ability to walk, but it couldn’t steal his courage and his great heart. And I wouldn’t let it steal his dignity.

I called my very compassionate vet, who came to the house to assist my big guy. With his head in my lap, the feel of sunshine on his back and the sound of birdsong all around, Jefferson slipped quietly into deep sleep.
A simple rock marks his resting place. It’s engraved with one word: courage. Yellow roses bloom where he lies. This summer I’ll add more roses. This fall I’ll plant daffodils and tulips, day lilies and iris.

When I sit in Jefferson’s garden, I’ll understand that indomitable spirits can’t be broken, that kindness is more important than wealth, that true friends are precious beyond measure.
And I will always remember.

Peggy Webb is the award-winning author of 60 plus romance novels, 200 magazine humor columns and two screenplays. Her comedic Southern Cousins Mystery Series, launched in 2008 with Elvis and the Dearly Departed, features amateur sleuths Callie Jones, her cousin Lovie (who’s had more lovers than Elvis has fleas), and her Basset Hound who thinks he’s the reincarnated King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Peggy is former adjunct instructor at MS State University. Her website is

Monday, April 13, 2009

WHAT IS A CRACKER QUEEN? Aren’t you dying to know? A Cracker Queen is a strong, authentic Southern woman. She is the anti-Southern Belle. She has a raucous sense of humor and can open up a can of whup-ass as needed. She holds her head and her cigarette up high. She cusses, raises t-total hell when a line is crossed, and she knows loss and hurt; these things have made her beautiful, resourceful and, above all, real.

The Cracker Queen: A Memoir of Jagged, Joyful Life begins with the childhood experiences and adventures of Lauretta in backwater Warner Robins. Her mama on the edge and jazz musician daddy have a deep and disorderly love with years of booze, infidelities and nervous breakdowns but through it all she feels cherished.

The stories of her deeply dysfunctional family include chain gangs, guns, ghost hunting, moonshine stands, scooterpootin’, the famous Goat Man of Georgia and Crazy Aunt Carrie who is arrested for assaulting a police dog. The early years of hardship and hard living all gave Hannon the resilience and humor that are now the hallmarks of her Cracker Queen way of life.

From Warner Robins she moves to Savannah’s most eccentric neighborhoods and its lively crew of hellions, heroines, bad seeds, thugs and renegades including a lady who keeps the Baby Jesus chained up in her front yard, a woman who looks like a rutabaga, and the root doctor that works a hoodoo on her.

This is what Lee Smith had to say:

“I raced through this book—horrified, laughing out loud, and weeping by turns. I say, let’s throw out all the self-help and inspirational books in the country, and put up The Cracker Queen displays instead! Hannon really made me think, and I’m going to whup some ass, too.”

Here’s our little sit down with the soon-to-be famous Cracker Queen:

You have a one-woman show. What's that all about?

It’s a show based on the stories in the book. I also add elements such as large photos of the real-life people and settings depicted in The Cracker Queen. It’s a lot of fun to “perform” the book in this way.

I also get to riff on favorite topics such as how Southerners talk about their health and embellish their illnesses. My Me-Maw was the perfect example of this. She enjoyed poor health even though she was quite robust. She always claimed to have “Cadillacs” on her eyes and “the sugar.”
And do you ever notice how we try to outdo each other when we’re talking about the size of tumors? If you had a grapefruit-sized tumor, then I’m going to tell you about somebody who had a watermelon-sized tumor. It’s pretty funny when you think about it.

What made you decide to finally write all of your experiences down? Was it cathartic?

I could no longer bear the weight of the story—it had to come out. Before I began to write it down, I would have recurring nightmares that I was expelling horrible things from my mouth. I finally got the message and began the work.

Putting it down on paper enabled me to release that burden for once and for all. It made way for great healing. Whether you ever publish it or not, writing a memoir is life-transforming.

How did you come to be a commentator on NPR?

During my lunch hour one day I thought about a favorite quote from Goethe that I had posted in my office:

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

I realized that I needed to make some sort of bold attempt at getting my stories out there, so I went to NPR’s website and submitted a commentary. Within 30 minutes I got a response. The producer said no but asked to see more of my writing. Everything that has happened for me began with a “no.” So those aspiring writers out there should not be discouraged when they hear that word.

How have family and friends reacted to your memoir?

The reactions from my family have run the gamut from pride and approval to discomfort and anger. My mom loves the book. Some readers find that surprising, but they have to remember that Mama is the Queen of all Cracker Queens.

The response I get most often from friends is, “Good Lord, I didn’t know you had that kind of childhood!”

What influences in your background shaped you into an “anti-Southern Belle?

I grew up in the margins and never related to the Belle or her world. People like us were at the bottom of the heap and had no access to her strata of Southern society. My ancestors were too poor to even be sharecroppers. My kin worked for the sharecroppers!

The women I knew and admired were Cracker Queens: authentic, strong, and wise as a result of the hard times they’d endured and conquered. And through it all these women never lost their raucous sense of humor or their willingness to whup some ass.

Who are some of your favorite authors and how have they shaped your own writing?

Poetry is my first love, so William Butler Yeats and William Blake are my favorites. Their work made me aware of the importance of rhythm. I approach my writing as if I’m composing music. I listen hard to the words. In the genre of modern memoir, I adore Mary Karr and Rick Bragg.

What are you working on now?

Two things: a follow-up to The Cracker Queen and I’m tinkering with an idea for a novel. As someone has said, I’m afraid if I talk too much about it the magic might leak out, so that's all I'll say for now.

The Digitization Of People

Frances Dinkelspiel has written a brilliant book about her great-great grandfather. Isaias W. Hellman left his native Germany, moved to pre-Gold Rush Los Angeles and proceeded to become one of the most significant financial powerhouses in California. Wells Fargo, Farmers and Merchants Bank, transportation, utilities, oil, real estate - all major Hellman investments.

Frances was among the 180-plus generous, talented and ambitious classmates I was honored to get to know at Columbia University’s Journalism School Class of 1986. Frances now lives in San Francisco, where she’s a scholar, writer, mom, blogger. She and I share the same publishing house, St. Martin’s Press. These days, many of our friends and classmates wake up every day wondering whether they’ll keep their newspaper jobs. Whether their newspapers will continue to operate. Whether The Newspaper as we know it will, like the polar bear and mountain gorilla, become extinct.

As I read Frances’ TOWERS OF GOLD, what struck me, aside from her concise, fluid and razor-sharp writing, is the same thing that struck everyone else who applauds her: Her microscopic research. Frances spent eight years digging through musty archives, countless boxes and newspapers, towering stacks of them (probably tons of that unwieldy microfiche and microfilm, too).

While we all wonder whether books, with actual paper, will be around in their current form in, oh, let’s say, a decade or so, what about Frances’s kind of scholarship? What about nonfiction?

Somewhere among the digital Kudzu of Webfomation, I found an article about how the stories that cavepeople told on their walls still exist. Think about it. Tales about prehistoric hunts, Egyptian hieroglyphs carved into pyramids telling us about being dead all still inform us, still legible for us to read and share.

Today, we leave our histories on hard drives, CDs and flash drives. They’re all devices susceptible to melting, crashing, destruction, getting misplaced. History wiped out within minutes, not millennia.

So what’s going to happen? When scholars begin sifting through the rivers of peoples’ lives, sifting for golden nuggets of their compelling histories, where could they pan for anything? Blogs? Facebook? Myspace? Twitter? We don’t even write letters anymore. We send emails. Billions of them, and the vast majority are deleted, aren’t they?

While Frances painstakingly pored through dust and must and actual paper that carries that rich fragrance of inky history in search of her great-great-grandfather, I fingered some cool-as-hell documents my own grandfather left behind. That’s how I made my way to THE PLUNDER ROOM, my novel. That, and Google.

We novelists don’t necessarily have to camp out in the very libraries we grew up to love to do our research.

But search engines have their pitfalls. I found in one Google that I was dead.

According to a Virginia publication, the “Daily Review,” John Jeter had passed away in 1893. The article, dated March 21 of that year, read:

Old Mr. Jeter Dead

John Jeter, an aged colored man of this place, died on Saturday last about six o’clock, quite suddenly. He was about town as usual on Friday. The old man was a familiar and well known figure upon our streets; for many years he has done the bell ringing and street calling for every auction that has been held. [John Jeter's photo at right]
Mr. Jeter was about ninety years of age. The funeral services were held yesterday afternoon; interment at Riverside cemetery.

Undoubtedly, Old Mr. Jeter was greatly missed.

So, too, will be the stuff of real scholarship when paper, which becomes yellowed and perfumey and offers a useful long-lasting record, gives way to fully digitized people whose histories, whose distant lives could vanish in one click.

If Santayana’s argument that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, well … I guess I’ll stick with making stuff up.

John Jeter's novel, THE PLUNDER ROOM (St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books), tells the story of one slacker/paraplegic's mandate to salvage his family's proud legacy, an allegory of the national zeitgeist, the cultural and core-values erosion from the Greatest Generation to Generation X. He's currently wondering about his current projects.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Big Lip Models Coloring Outside the Lines

A couple weeks ago I addressed a topic at my place, (for the uninitiated that's All Things Southern on the web,radio, and TV), that I had recently broached with a few live audiences. I figured it was time to lay all the the cards on the table.

The point I made there, and I'm feeling the need to broaden the announcement, so I think I'll make it here as well, is that I have not been running all over the country espousing the value of lip color and forgetting to apply my own. I never, but never leave home without my color. I have thin lips, okay? No, I don't like it,but I've tried to accept it, in a-that's-just-the-way-the-Good-Lord-made-me sort of way. It'd be easier if folks weren't always reminding me.

The funny thing I've noticed about being in the public eye, (and am I the only one who has always found that phrase invites a really strange visual, being singular, the eye I mean), is that people think they can tell you anything, any---thang! When I first started doing my online videos, I got a few emails from folks telling me I look like Reba McIntyre. I couldn't see it. She's a little bitty blue eyed redhead. I'm a tall brown eyed brunette. Then some folks wrote in and said I looked like Trisha Yearwood. I didn't see that either, although she was more of a blondish brunette and

she's a bigger girl, no offense intended. Then it hit me. Do you see the connection? We all have thin lips.

Once I even got an email from a lady who said, "I just love watching you on TV, Shellie. You look just like family. None of us have any lips." She went on to tell me about the lip surgery she had to plump hers up and how she was happy with it, but it faded away after a little while and she was gonna have to do it again. She told me I should think hard before I did as it was painful and expensive. I didn't even know I was considering it.

She meant well. That's another one of Mama's lines. In related news, I’ve posted some pictures here of some big lip models from a recent style show in Paris. Check this out! These models have taken coloring outside the lines to a whole new level. Amen?

Seriously, it looks like they’ve been eating their red lipstick. Reminds me of the time Jessica Ann found my lipstick and painted herself up nicely, only she was four! Perhaps somebody needs a time-out. I’m just saying...