Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why I Wrote KEEP NO SECRETS, What I Think About Reviews (Good & Bad) and Other Stuff of Possible Interest . . .

Reader and fellow St. Louisan Debbie Haupt has been one of my biggest supporters since she first wrote to me after reading Tell No Lies. When Rescuing Olivia originally released back in 2010, she invited me to participate in a book club discussion over at the Barnes & Noble fiction forum she moderates, and now, with Keep No Secrets, she did a lovely interview of me at her blog, The Reading Frenzy. You can read it here.

Among other things, I talk about why I wrote Keep No Secrets (the sequel to Tell No Lies), what I think about reviews (good and bad), and what I'm working on now. Hope you'll take a look and show Debbie some love! While you're there, consider following her blog. It truly IS a reading frenzy!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

A Great Article by Hugh Howey about Self-Publishing

I know I keep promising I'll write more about my reasons for self-publishing, but the work-in-progress continues to call, and I continue to stumble upon articles by other writers who say it so much better than I could. Here's one in particular that explains it so well (not surprising--given that it was written by Hugh Howey, author of the bestselling WOOL).

Here's the link, from Salon: Self-Publishing is the Future and Great for Writers

Thanks to fellow writer Robert Gregory Browne for posting the article on his Facebook page for me to stumble upon. ;-)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

KEEP NO SECRETS is now available!

Now available!
("Buy the book" links below)

(the TELL NO LIES sequel)

After the ultimate betrayal,
which is more important:
trust or forgiveness?

After surviving the private and public fallout from a one-night stand four years before, St. Louis DA Jack Hilliard wants nothing more than to be trusted again by his wife, Claire, and to earn back the respect of the community he serves. Since the day Claire accepted him back into the family, he's vowed to be true to these goals, and so far he's succeeded.

But all of Jack's efforts begin to crumble when the woman involved in his earlier downfall, Jenny Dodson, returns to town claiming threats on her life and asking for his help, and resurrecting for Jack long-buried emotions and questions of her guilt for the murder of a client. Just when he thinks the pressure can't get any worse, his son's girlfriend, Celeste, accuses him of sexual assault, and he suddenly finds himself on the wrong end of a criminal case, battling for his freedom.

Can Jack trust his freedom to the legal system on which he built his career? Or will the ghost of his one-night stand four years before come back to haunt him, causing him to be convicted on the mistakes of his past?

BUY an eBook edition:

BUY the PRINT edition:

You can also ask your local bookseller or library
to order it for you (tell them it is distributed by Ingram)

Note about ebooks: Did you know you don't need a specific e-reader (Kindle, Nook, Kobo) to buy and read books from the companies that make those readers? You have choices, no matter what type of device you have. Here are links where you can download FREE reading apps to your iPad, your phone, your PC, and other devices.
  Kindle apps
BN Nook apps
Kobo apps

THANK YOU to all of my readers for your continued support and encouragement!


Thursday, March 07, 2013

RESCUING OLIVIA Kindle edition FREE until midnight March 8!

I spread the word everywhere else, but I realized I forgot to post it here!

Short but sweet: the Kindle edition of RESCUING OLIVIA is FREE - that's right - FREE!! - through midnight on Friday, March 8, 2013! Grab it while you can!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why I Decided to Self-Publish


In case you missed my recent announcement, my next book, Keep No Secrets (the sequel to Tell No Lies) will be hitting the virtual book shelves very, very soon (ebook and print), and this time I've decided to self-publish it. Also, I recently got the rights back to my first two novels, Tell No Lies and Rescuing Olivia, and I've re-released Tell No Lies as an ebook on Amazon (only $2.99!). Rescuing Olivia will follow any day now.

Of course, the first question I received from many folks after making this announcement (primarily other writers, but not always) was this: Why did you decide to self-publish?

The answer is a lengthy one, and it's multi-faceted. There really isn't just one reason.

So in the interest of saving myself the trouble of having to answer the question over and over, and also realizing that there are probably people who want to know but are too afraid to ask, I've decided to discuss it here on my blog. The full answer will come piecemeal – one, because as I said, it's long and multi-faceted, and, two, because on any given day I remember more of my reasons. (I'll also add the answers to my website, so by the time I'm done, all of my answers can be found in one place.)

Today, I'll start with two, very simple reasons.

Reason #1 why I decided to self-publish: As I write, it's been twenty days since I first released Tell No Lies by uploading it as an ebook to Amazon. In those twenty days, I've sold more copies of the book than I've sold in the past two years. Surprised? So was I, but only a little.

See, with traditional publishing, your book is released and it hits the shelves in some bookstores (but not, as some think, in most bookstores – I'll discuss this further in a later post), where it remains for two months or so (if you're lucky), and then any leftover copies are returned to your publisher to make room on the shelves for the next crop of releases. After that, the print book can still be purchased (1) from the bookstore if you want to wait for them to order it and get it in, or (2) online, either as a print book or as an ebook, but the print book is now competing with the used copies being resold for two cents, and the ebook, priced at $9.99 or sometimes even higher, is competing against all of the other $9.99 books by New York Times bestsellers and the free, 99 cents, $1.99 and $2.99, etc. books by authors doing it themselves. In other words, once you reach this point, you won't be selling too many more copies. The heyday of your book's life is behind it.

By getting my rights back and re-releasing Tell No Lies and Rescuing Olivia, I'm able to give the books a little CPR and bring them back to life. Forever. Plus, I can set my own price so they stand a chance of competing against the books mentioned above. It's amazing how many people are willing to give a relatively unknown author a chance when they're asked to spend only $2.99 to do it. You don't get the benefit of that “sampling” when your book is priced at $9.99 or higher.

You might ask, why do traditional publishers set the price of ebooks, especially for lesser known authors like me, so high? Beats me. Or rather, I know why – I simply don't understand why. Again, that's a whole other post, but if you want a great explanation now, I'll refer you to a short book (free!) called Be the Monkey - Ebooks and Self-Publishing: A Dialog Between Authors Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath. Frankly, I'd call it required reading for anyone considering any kind of publishing in this day and age. Do I agree with everything they say? No, but the discussion of print and digital publishing is spot on, in my opinion.

Reason #2 why I decided to self-publish: The traditional publishing route isn't as glamorous as it's cracked up to be.

I could try to explain this, but I would never be able to write such a funny, yet honest explanation as given by Adam Mansbach in this essay he wrote for If you really want to know what it's like, all I can say is: What Adam said!

So that's it for today, folks. Time to get back to preparing Rescuing Olivia for its re-release. Stay tuned for more reasons . . .

I welcome all comments or questions about my decision and my experience. I'll try to answer as best I can. (If a question would be answered by an upcoming “Reason why” post, I may defer my answer to then so I can answer it adequately. Please be patient. I still have to find time to actually write fiction.)

Don't get me wrong: I'm not here to declare one way is better than another. My intent is to discuss why I've decided to do this at this point in time. Will I always do it this way? Who knows? This is a new venture for me and I may end up loving it or I may end up hating it. Would I consider going back to traditional publishing? It depends. I know plenty of authors who are doing both, and I can see that as a possibility if the terms were right. After all, there was a time when I didn't think I'd ever write a sequel to Tell No Lies. But I did. So if I've learned anything, it's never to say never. The beauty of what I'm doing is that I can be flexible.

So, if you're interested in the details of my journey, stick around and follow along. If all you care about are the books – that's great, too! I recommend signing up for my mailing list, though, so you won't miss the news of any upcoming releases.

Talk to you soon!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Nancy Cohen on Reader Reviews: An Author's Best Friend

I met fellow author Nancy J. Cohen through the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. She recently wrote a great post on her blog, Nancy's Notes from Florida, about how readers can help authors whose books they enjoy. With her permission, I'm re-posting it here for your reading pleasure.

Nancy's post:

When you finish reading a book, do you write a brief review and post it online? If your answer is negative, why not? Do you feel you have nothing to say? Are you afraid your opinion won’t count? Is it too much bother?

Reader reviews count a great deal to potential book buyers. When you’re thinking of ordering a book, do you go to the virtual bookstore and read customer reviews? I know I do. It’s possible that the more customer reviews on an Amazon page, the more chances of Amazon’s algorithms picking up the title and including it in their promotion, “If you like this book, you might like…” This recommendation is of tremendous help to authors. So are five star reviews. But be honest in your opinion and assign however many stars you feel is appropriate. Just please don’t trash someone’s work. If you don’t like the book, leave off your opinion. Nothing hurts worse than seeing someone give my book one star and condemning it. Maybe it just wasn’t their cup of tea and another reader will love it.

So how do you write a review? Start out with a blurb about the story. Pretend you are summarizing the tale for a friend, but omit any critical plot points that may act as spoilers. Then mention what you liked about the book. The exquisite setting details? The engaging characters? The non-stop action, or the quirky sidekick? Surely you can find something good to say. End your review if you can with a quotable line encapsulating your opinion. This may range from “A charming historical mystery that will sweep you away to the Victorian era” to “Starships, space battles, and snarky sidekicks…what’s not to like about this action-packed sci-fi adventure?”

Since the New Year is upon us, hereby resolve to start writing reader reviews and posting them online to support your favorite authors. Where to put them? Here are several sites where your opinion matters.

Go to the book’s page. Scroll down to where is says Most Helpful Customer Reviews. Scroll down some more until it says Write a Customer Review. Then click there and follow the directions. You’ll need to be signed into your account. Preview and Publish your review as the final steps.

If you want to see my reviews as an example, go here.

And if you’ve read any of my books, even backlist titles, I can use more reviews! Go here to access a list of all my titles.

Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble is often overlooked, but with so many NOOK owners, this online bookstore still carries weight. On a book’s page, scroll down to where it says Customer Reviews. Then fill in your star rating and write your review in the box provided. Click Submit to finish. Again, you’ll probably need to be signed into your account first.

Here’s my author site on B&N. This online bookstore isn’t as author friendly as Amazon so it’s harder for us to make changes, like eliminating books under my name that don’t belong there.


Goodreads is a popular reader site where readers review books they’ve read, file these reviews on virtual bookshelves and create genre lists. Readers participate in group discussions, offering each other recommendations. A good review here really helps, and so does a recommendation in any of the groups! You can also look for book giveaways under Explore to get a taste of new releases. It’s easy to register for a free account. Then you just go to My Books, click on Add Books, and type in the book title. The book should pop up. Click on it and give it a star rating. Then click on Edit my Review and write in your review, or cut and paste it from your home computer. Be my friend at Goodreads

Library Thing

Here’s another site for you to post reviews and keep track of your reads. I need to update my bookshelf here. Librarians frequent this site. Find me on Library Thing here. And, it’s another place for authors to offer giveaways of upcoming new releases.


This site is linked to Amazon, so any book details you add in here may show up there. I need to update my reviews on Shelfari, too: .

Admittedly, it’s hard to keep up with each place. Once I get caught up, though, I can just copy and paste my book review to each site once I finish reading a title.

Your opinion as a reader truly counts now more than ever, with professional reviews almost impossible for authors to get on their own, reviewers swamped with hundreds of titles, and the days of bookstore browsing severely diminished. Word of mouth is critical, and this is where you come in. Offering positive reviews and recommendations online of books you’ve read is one of the best forms of support you can do for authors. Consider yourselves our street team, and get involved.

Are you already doing online reviews, and if so, where?

Learn more about Nancy J. Cohen and her books at her website.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

My New Year's Resolution: to Keep No Secrets . . .

If you're connected with me on Facebook, you might have noticed a few posts in which I hinted at some exciting news. It's also a bit scary - for me, at least, because I'm trying something new and might just as easily fall flat on my face as succeed. But as I've always told my daughters - nothing ventured, nothing gained - and I figure I'd better practice what I preach. Plus, I've always been a bit of a control freak (those who know me well are smirking about now), and what I've chosen to do places the responsibility for the success or failure of my writing career squarely on my own shoulders. Just the way I like it!

For those who are interested, I'll be sharing "the story behind the story" on this blog in the next few weeks, discussing why I've chosen this new route. But for today, I'm simply sharing the meat of the news:

KEEP NO SECRETS, the sequel to my debut novel, TELL NO LIES, is just weeks away from being published, and this time I'm doing it myself! Okay, not all by myself: I've got a fabulous new cover designed by an up-and-coming designer at SCAD (who just happens to be my oldest daughter, Jessie):

For those of you who read TELL NO LIES, you probably can tell from the KEEP NO SECRETS cover that a key character from the first book will be making an appearance in the sequel. A big appearance.

For a sneak preview of KEEP NO SECRETS, click on over to my website to read the first chapter.

Speaking of TELL NO LIES, it, too, has a brand new cover (courtesy of Jessie) that nicely complements KEEP NO SECRETS, and just days ago I re-released the eBook edition on Amazon. The Kindle edition of TELL NO LIES is now priced at only $2.99! That's right, for less than a Starbucks grande nonfat mocha latte, you can buy an entire book! (Even if you've read the novel, I'd really appreciate it if you'd "Like" it on the Amazon page, and even better, if you'd write a review. I'm told these things help a book rise in the Amazon search rankings, which in turn helps other readers find it.) Oh, and did you know you can also buy an eBook and gift it to someone else?

So that's the news! If you like my books, it would mean a lot to me if you'd tell others about them.

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of nitty, gritty details behind my decision, and for those who want to know more, I'd recommend following this blog and/or connecting with me on Facebook. Eventually, the FAQ section of my website will discuss it a bit, too. And of course, I always love to get emails!

As always, THANK YOU for your interest and continued support! The notes and emails and comments I get from my readers are the best part of what I do - right up there with the incredible joy I get from the actual act of writing. Last night, on New Year's Eve, a reader posted a comment on my Facebook page that said:
"julie please im so scared! i need this book like air! ive been waiting for so long. but im so scared im scared hes going to break my heart all over again. please tell me he wont"
What a lovely note to start the New Year! The funny thing is, all of my readers, and notes like these that come from them, are MY air. So thank you for helping me breathe!

Here's hoping all of you have a fantastic 2013!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Great writing advice from Fantasy author Janet Beasley

Only one more day until Authors in the Park, an event taking place this Sunday, December 16th, in Mount Dora, Florida, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the Mount Dora Community Center. Janet Beasley, along with Mark Miller, are two writers who organized the event and have worked their tails off to promote it. I invited them to visit my blog to talk about their writing. You can read Mark's interview here, and below, Janet's. Enjoy!

Julie: What's the title of your most recent book?

Janet: Tough question - crazy right? But here's how it shakes down: Hidden Earth Series Volume 1 Maycly the Trilogy, is accompanied by two companion books - a full color illustration book titled The Chukkons Say, 'Ye Need ta Be a-Seein' Maycly, and a cookbook featuring restaurants, menus, and recipes from Maycly (all fully pre-parable and edible right here on Earth) titled More Than Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup.

What's it about? 

Maycly Volume 1 the Trilogy of the six-volume series Hidden Earth, is an inspirational epic fantasy that takes you on the journey of Iona, a girl in her twenties on Earth, who “has it all” and “loses it all,” nearly giving up on life altogether. She has never questioned her trust in the Grand Wizard, SUL, but when she develops multiple chronic illnesses, loses her wealth, and is forced to deal with the mysterious disappearance of her last three living family members, she chooses to believe that SUL no longer exists. Refusing to ask SUL for guidance, Iona is determined to find her family on her own; however, SUL has other plans for her. When a very special puppy shows up on Iona’s doorstep, things begin to change. The story explodes, taking you to the captivating world of Maycly 100 years prior, setting the stage for their queen’s hopeful arrival. The trilogy is full of twists and turns, monumental battles, and illustrations of never before seen flora and fauna. Tag along with Iona and her band of new-found friends as she discovers her destiny, faces a myriad of dangers, and continues searching for her family. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, maybe even say “aww.” But best of all, no matter your age, you’ll find characters, Earthly and/or Mayclysian, with whom you can relate.
Who do you see as your audience? 

The quickest and easiest way to describe my audience would be from a review I received (one of my favorite reviews I might add). They described Maycly like this, "...a delightful combination of Harry Potter and The Wizard of Oz," two of my favorites! Families, kids of all ages, and even your dog will love the Hidden Earth Series Volume 1 Maycly the Trilogy.

Why do you write?

I write because it allows me to escape to fantasy worlds, and forget my hectic, stressful, totally crazy days. I also write because if I were to bottle up all my creative genius I would explode. . .I came really close once, but thankfully I discovered writing was the perfect diffusion and have stuck with it sense.

What is the most important piece of advice you'd give other writers, particularly those who might just be starting to write? 

If you've got a story to tell, tell it. Write it (your first draft will be "junk" - so just expect that - this does NOT make you a lousy writer by any means) HINT: Do a search on Ernest Hemingway's quotes and you'll see what I mean. Have your story professionally edited, publish it - either on your own or through a publisher, market the heck out of it, and never...NEVER...listen to anyone who puts you down because of your passion for writing. Stay strong, persevere, remain dedicated, and surround yourself with other authors who understand your creativity and talent are worth something in to this world.

Julie's note: You can connect with Janet on Facebook or visit her website to learn more:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

All in the Family: Mark Miller talks about writing with his daughter

Author Mark Miller graciously invited me to participate in Authors in the Park, an event taking place this Sunday, December 16th, in lovely Mount Dora, Florida. He and another author, Janet Beasley, organized it and have been working tirelessly to promote it. I invited them to visit my blog to talk about their writing. I hope you enjoy this short interview with Mark. Next up, Janet.

Julie: What's the title of your most recent book?

Mark: I’ve got so much going on right now, it’s almost hard to pick. From my epic fantasy series, The Empyrical Tales, Book III: The Secret Queen is the most recent. I also wrote an eBook adaptation of a  Christian-themed movie called Daniel’s Lot. The paperback is coming out this month. Probably the one that is most special to me is the novel I completed with my 10-year-old daughter. We started writing it together when she was eight and it is called Sons of the King. It is a science-fiction/fantasy story about three brothers finding their destiny.

Tell us more about Sons of the Kings?

Sons of the King tells of three brothers on the planet Kaskaya. They lose their father, the King, under mysterious circumstances and are forced to go their separate ways. The story has strong Christian elements and is about their growth and change over five years. They eventually have to return home to face their destiny. While I did the majority of the writing, my daughter Olivia was responsible for all of the creativity. She named the characters and places. She helped with plotting. At her age, she already has a strong voice. Much of what she wrote went in unchanged. She has a unique sense for word choice and I wanted that to poke through as much as possible. I sometimes found myself adapting my style to match hers.

Who do you see as your audience?

I think Sons of the King does well at spanning the age groups. It is clean with a positive message for younger people, but mature enough for an adult audience. There is a Christian message to it, but it is not heavy-handed or “preachy,” so anybody who enjoys a good adventure will like this. I would say it falls somewhere between Star Wars and Chronicles of Narnia.

Why do you write?

Why? I have a passion for it. Like a baseball player gets in the zone, I can spend hours at the keyboard. My imagination is on 24 hours a day. I have done quite a few different things in my life. Aside from being a husband and father, nothing else gives me the joy and satisfaction of writing. A close second is working with kids. The time I spent in the classroom was some of my best spent time. I love the response I get from kids when I share my stories. So, I guess I write for them mostly. I write for my own children. I try to have a positive message and create good role models. When I say I write for kids, I am also including the kid-at-heart variety, too!

What is the most important piece of advice you'd give other writers, particularly those who might just be starting to write?

I used to tell people to keep writing. I feel that practice every day, like the athlete or musician, is important. Now, I also say learn patience. Everything takes time and you will only improve with age and experience. So, keep at it, but don’t rush it.

Thank you for having me on your blog today! I appreciate the opportunity and would love to hear any feedback from your readers.

Julie's note: You can connect with Mark on Facebook or visit his website to learn more:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

From Teaching Literature to Writing It: Lynnette Hallberg (aka Lynnette Austin)

I first met author Lynnette Hallberg several years ago at SleuthFest, the annual mystery writer's conference put on by the Florida Chapter of MWA. This past March, I saw her again at SleuthFest, where she had just learned from her agent that the rights to her latest novel, Somebody Like You, (written as Lynnette Austin) had been sold to Grand Central (a Hachette Book Group imprint). I found her publishing journey so interesting and inspiring, and I hope you'll feel the same.

Julie: Would you explain a bit about your publishing journey? How did you go from unpublished, to published by small presses, to landing an agent and then a contract with one of the big boys? And how did you find your agent? At a conference? By written query?

Lynnette: Where do I begin? :-) I’m certainly no overnight success, but then very few authors are. We read stories about the ones who send in a manuscript and are bought the next day for six figures. But the reason we read about them is because they are, indeed, the exception.

I have so many unpublished “practice” manuscripts that I could wallpaper my home with them. My first “break” came when I finaled in the Golden Heart contest, which is RWA’s worldwide contest for unpublished authors. I signed with an agent—not the one I’m with now—when that was announced. Does entering contests help? I’d say yes, it certainly can.

I sold my first book, Enchanted Evening, to Kensington, and it was released in 2000. (By the way, this was not the book I finaled with in the GH.) I was ecstatic and certain that I was on my way. I had an agent and a book out. What more could I want? A second sale maybe? Before that could happen, the line I was writing for closed, and I was without a publishing home. It took me nine very, very long years to sell that second book—and then I sold three in one year—to The Wild Rose Press—Moonlight, Motorcycles, and Bad Boys, Night Shadows, and Chantilly Lace and a Pretty Face. They have excellent editors and I learned so much! I sold my next book, Just A Little White Lie, to Carina Press, the digital arm of Harlequin Publishing, one of the biggies. So I was taking small steps, slowly advancing. It’s like eating an elephant—one bite at a time.

I met Nicole Resciniti, my agent, through Southwest Florida Romance Writers. She was writing at the time and joined our group. So we actually were friends first, which is unusual but not unheard of in the writing world. She’s with The Seymour Agency and is an absolutely fantastic agent! When I finished Somebody Like You, the first in my Maverick Junction series, she sent it off—and I crossed my fingers. We heard back amazingly fast and had two offers, one from Grand Central. Can you say happy dance?

To make it even more special, when I found out about the offer from Grand Central, I was at my agent’s house and three editors were there for SWFRW’s conference—which I was chairing. What could be better than that? To have a great offer and to be congratulated by three editors whom I admire (none of them, by the way, was the editor who bought my book). Oh, what a night, as Billy Joel would say.

Julie: Your new series with Grand Central will be published under a pen name, Lynnette Austin. What made you decide to use a pen name for this series?

Lynnette: Actually, the use of a pen name was the publisher’s decision. New publisher, new series—this was a rebirth almost, so we wanted to start fresh with a name they could brand. My editor, Lauren Plude, and I brainstormed to come up with one that would work. Since this series takes place in Maverick Junction, Texas, we wanted something with a Western sound. She and I threw the name Austin on the table at the same time. We decided fate had intervened and ran with it. I have to say that it seems rather strange to suddenly have a new name!

Julie: The first time I read your bio, I was struck by some similarities between us (a "motorcycle" book, a love of Wyoming (you actually stayed!), two children, giving up our "real" jobs to spend the day hanging with our characters in our PJ's, "writing" in the car and in the shower . . .). I once had that happen with another writer; we found so many parallels, we decided we were sisters separated at birth. So now I'm curious, do you like the Dave Matthews Band? ;-) Seriously, though, are you a panster or a plotter? Can you tell me a little bit about your process? And is it influenced by your experience as a literature teacher?

Lynnette: We do have a lot in common, Julie! And, yes, I do like the Dave Matthews Band. “So Damn Lucky”—what a great song! But my true love in music is country-western. I earned my master’s degree at the University of Wyoming. Go Cowboys! :-) Gotta love’em.

I drive my two critique partners crazy with my “shower” writing. Although we live in Florida, one of us has a second home in South Carolina and I have one in the Georgia mountains. We run away to one or the other several times a year for a week of intense writing and critiquing. My books tend to come to me in out-of-order scenes and, when they do, I’ve learned to grab them and write them down. It’s not unusual for me to head into the shower and, by the time I’m finished, have four to six pages written. Tape recorders work well, too, there and in the car.

The scenes come fully fleshed-out. I see them in my head. My characters come to me that way, too. I keep a three-ring notebook and compile all my scenes, my notes, pictures, name charts, whatever comes along. Then I go through the mad mess, put the scenes in order, and I’m ready to start writing my book. I add to this WIP notebook as I go. So I probably fall somewhere between a panster and a plotter on the writing food chain.

Everything we’ve ever done or experienced helps to make us who we are. This is reflected in our writing. I taught eighth grade gifted language arts for more years than I can count! I’ve always loved to read and this was almost an extension of that. I had a chance to share great literature with my students and hopefully some of those authors’ expertise rubbed off on me, even in the tiniest way. And I know that some day I’ll see my students’ work in the bookstores. What incredible talent is coming along.

Julie: What have you found most surprising about the writing/publishing business? What misconceptions did you have when you first started?

Lynnette: When I first got serious about writing, I thought of the publishing world as this enormous unknown. There was so much to learn and I really felt as though everyone else had the secret code, and I didn’t. That’s so not true. There is, unfortunately, no secret code.

However, there is a great support system—other authors who have been there, done that. By belonging to FWA, members have already accessed a wealth of knowledge. If you’re just starting out in the business, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Writers are a wonderfully sharing group of people.

One of the best pieces of advice anyone ever gave me? Someone told me early on to keep in mind that the writing community is actually quite small. Editors and agents move around a lot. Don’t burn your bridges—ever. Always remember that this is a profession and behave accordingly. Don’t let your emotions rule.

Julie: We first met several years ago at the SleuthFest conference. Do you attend a lot of conferences? Which ones? And what do you find valuable about them? What advice would you give writers to help them get the most from a conference?

Lynnette: I do go to conferences. They’re invaluable for the networking and the information. They pump you up and get those creative juices flowing. It’s also a great way to stay current. A word of caution, though. Don’t write to trends. By the time you finish that WIP about the time-traveling vampire set in Bermuda because an editor said she’d like to see one, the market for that will be on the downside and you’ll be frustrated and will have wasted a lot of valuable time. Now if you’ve always had your heart set on writing about a time-traveling vampire who lives in the Caribbean . . . :-)

Don’t be afraid to volunteer. I met my former agent, Deidre Knight, at a conference when I acted as timekeeper for her agent/editor appointments. You make valuable contacts. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to people. Most writers are introverts. We enjoy sitting by ourselves in a room all day. It’s hard to step out of that comfort zone. But do it. You’ll gain so much. The knowledge and expertise at these conferences is mind blowing.

Julie: Any words of wisdom about writing in general you'd like to share?

Lynnette: Writing is a habit, kind of like exercise. Train yourself to grab spare minutes rather than waiting for those huge blocks of time. When I was still teaching, I’d get up at four-thirty or five in the morning so I could write for an hour or so before getting ready for school. When I came home, I’d write for half an hour before starting dinner. It’s often about making time. Setting expectations.

Keep writing—every day—and keep your story moving forward. Don’t worry about getting every word, every scene perfect the first time through. You won’t. So many new writers work and rework those first few chapters, polishing them until they shine. That won’t get the book finished. Chances are, by the time you do finish, you’ll have to go back and edit those first chapters again anyway because by then you’ll know your characters inside and out. You’ll know what they’d do and how they’d react so much better than you did when you started that manuscript. Don’t waste time striving for perfection on that first draft.

Also, perseverance truly is the keystone of getting and staying published. Yes, your manuscript is your baby. Yes, you’ve poured your heart and soul into it. Yes, you’re deathly afraid an agent or editor might say something bad about that baby. If you don’t submit, though, you won’t sell. That’s one of the few guarantees in this business.

Wishing everyone great success with your writing!

A final note from Julie: Lynnette's new novel, Somebody Like You, was just released on December 4! To peek inside the novel at Amazon, click here. To learn more about Lynnette and her writing in general, visit her website at

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Meeting One of My Writer Rock Stars

Meeting author Elaine Viets for the first time was, for me, like meeting a rock star.

When I was young and growing up in my native St. Louis, my favorite morning activity was reading the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one of the city's major daily newspapers. (We also had the Globe-Democrat back then—imagine, two daily papers!) I'd sit down at the kitchen table with my coffee (cream and lots of sugar at that age) and ask my dad to pass the "Everyday" section. My dad probably thought I wanted the "Everyday" section for the funnies, but if so, he would have been wrong. Instead, I hoped to find my favorite columnist: Elaine Viets. Elaine was my writing idol. She was funny, she was self-deprecating, she was young and hip and had her own column in a major daily newspaper.

I eventually moved away from St. Louis and began reading other major newspapers wherever I lived–the Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer and now, the Orlando Sentinel. There were other columnists I enjoyed, but I never found another one who inspired my morning newspaper addiction the way Elaine did.

So imagine my surprise when I learned, sometime around the time my first novel was being released, that Elaine now lived in Florida and was a bestselling novelist! How can that be? I wondered. How did I not know this? My excitement about attending my first SleuthFest writers' conference in South Florida grew even more when I found out Elaine would be there, too.

I sat near the rear of the room in a workshop session for which Elaine was a panelist. At the end, I got up the nerve to introduce myself to her. I don't know what I said, exactly—something along the lines of being from St. Louis and being a huge fan of her column—but I do remember this: Elaine was gracious and funny and everything I imagined she would be in person.

But the coolest thing of all? Since that day, Elaine has treated me as a peer and mentored me more than I think she realizes. She's introduced me to some key people in the book business, she's connected me with promotional and marketing opportunities, and she's recommended me for some high level positions in writing organizations, among other things. More than anything, she's welcomed me into the writing community.

My first real "event" with Elaine - Lake County Festival of Reading

So I was thrilled and honored when Elaine recently asked me to participate in "The Next Big Thing"—a fun blog hop where authors help each other get the word out about their writing and books. It's sort of a promotional "round robin"—I won't bother trying to explain how it works here. The important thing is that we're all helping to get the word out about writers whom readers might not have otherwise known about.

To learn more about Elaine Viets and her hilarious, bestselling and critically-acclaimed novels, check out her "Next Big Thing" post over at the Femme Fatales blog.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The "2012" Post - Yes, I'm Still Here

Those who follow my blog (I've been so remiss in posting, there may not be any left!) will be among the first to get the word regarding Keep No Secrets, the long-awaited sequel to Tell No Lies. The announcement is coming very, very soon, so stay tuned! Signing up for my mailing list is a surefire way of hearing the latest news about the release, too.

But for now, I wanted to let my Central Florida friends know about an upcoming event in Mount Dora: Authors in the Park. The details are below, but suffice it to say, Mount Dora is not to be missed during the holiday season. It's an incredibly quaint town with fabulous Christmas lights, great shopping, and delicious dining. Oh, and it's built on a hill! You don't see those too often in Florida!

So come support local authors while you cross off names on your holiday shopping list! You can find out more information about the event and all the authors participating at this link.

Happy Holidays and all that jazz!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Florida Writers Association names me as its 2012 Person of Renown

I'm happy to announce that the Florida Writers Association has named me its Person of Renown for the 2012 FWA Collection #4!

The FWA Collection is an anthology of short stories, essays and poems put out every year by the Florida Writers Association. The theme for the 2012 FWA Collection is "My Wheels." (It's pretty easy to figure out why they asked me to do this! See Exhibit 1 - Rescuing Olivia book cover.) Members of FWA are invited to submit work that relates to this theme. I get to pick my ten favorites and I'll also be submitting a story of my own.

The "My Wheels" collection will be unveiled at next year's FWA annual conference, October 19 - 21, 2012. Visit the Florida Writers Association website to learn more about the organization and the upcoming collection.

The FWA motto is Writers Helping Writers. And they certainly do! I'm honored to be asked to participate in such a special way.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

North Carolina Events!

I'm North Carolina-bound later this week. I'm heading up to the Raleigh-Durham area for a "Dangerous Dames" tour with fellow authors Deb Sharp and Joanna Campbell Slan, two of the funniest (and fun-loving) women I've ever known.

Molly Weston, of Meritorious Mysteries Blog fame and author escort extraordinaire, has done the heavy-lifting for us and scheduled the following events:

October 14, 2011 (Friday)
Flyleaf Books
Chapel Hill, NC

October 14, 2011 (Friday)
7:00 p.m.
Page-Walker Cultural Arts Center
Cary, NC

October 15, 2011 (Saturday)
2:00 p.m.
McIntyre's Fine Books
Pittsboro, NC

October 16, 2011 (Sunday)
2:00 p.m.
Halle Cultural Arts Center
Apex, NC

October 17, 2011 (Monday)
Holly Springs Library
Holly Springs, NC

October 17, 2011 (Monday)
3:00 p.m.
West Regional Library
Cary, NC

Should be a lot of fun! If you're in the area, stop on by!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Torn Between Two Lovers

Joseph Arellano of the San Francisco Book Review asked me to write an essay about the trials and tribulations of being an author. For me, it's the constant pull between my two professional loves -- law and writing. Here's the full essay, in The Back Page section of the San Francisco Book Review. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Sunny" Days Are Here Again

To finish out the year, I give you my Nov/Dec '10 Slice of Life column from Lake Mary Life Magazine, about holiday visitors . . . mothers-in-law.
Happy New Year!

Julie's Slice of Life: "Sunny" Days are Here Again*

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, the day most people view as the official start of the holiday season (all except retailers, who, let’s face it, would start putting up Christmas decorations on Independence Day if they thought it would increase sales). And with the holiday season come visits from out-of-town relatives – those who lavishly shower us with the glad tidings and good cheer we look forward to, and those who, like the love bugs that visit our state every May and September, express their love by descending upon their helpless hosts and refusing to leave until they’ve sullied every surface in sight. If you’re lucky, your relatives bear a closer resemblance to the characters in a Christmas carol than a scary movie, but like the saying goes, even the best guests, like fish, can start to smell after a few days.

Unless, of course, the guest is my mother-in-law, Sunny.

When she and my father-in-law pull into our driveway after a sixteen hour car ride from St. Louis, they bring with them a hurricane-force wind of good will and upbeat attitude. You’ve heard of Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking? Well, I’m convinced that man learned everything he knows from my mother-in-law. When she leaves a few days later, the only reason I could possibly give for wanting to see her go is that, as the perfect guest, her exemplary behavior highlights the fact that I am far from the perfect hostess.

It begins when we open the door to greet them. Where other relatives might whine about the long drive, lament that they didn’t take a plane, or moan about how “beat” they are, my energetic, seventy-something mother-in-law says, “So what should we do first?” And she doesn’t mean take a nap. During her last visit, we went zip-lining at the Central Florida Zoo.

Her conduct as a guest is beyond reproach. When I make a meal, she asks how she can help, and when time comes to clean up, I have to throw her out of the kitchen or she’ll do the job herself while my back is turned. If I forget and leave wash in the machine, I later discover it dried and folded on my bed. If I accidentally sleep in one morning, I wake to find the coffee made and fresh, cut-up fruit on the kitchen table. Where many women I know grow weary from the subtle insults they endure from their mother-in-laws, mine repeatedly tells me I’m just like a daughter to her and thanks me for loving and taking care of her son.

Her presence causes a miraculous change in our children. Suddenly, they don’t fight. They give hugs and kisses without reserve. My fifteen year old daughter, who sees nothing wrong with calling me to bring the car and pick her up from the bus stop at the front of our neighborhood, magically becomes willing to take long walks on the Seminole-Wekiva trail. My eighteen year old agrees to watch The Man from Snowy River, where normally she views any film made prior to 2005 old-fashioned and boring (not to mention, she adds, the special effects are downright laughable).

It’s true. I am that rare breed of daughter-in-law who actually likes my mother-in-law and looks forward to her visits. I love her, too, of course. After all, she’s family. But to like someone can often be a greater compliment because it comes not from obligation, but from genuine respect and admiration for the beneficiary.

Because my mother-in-law resembles Julie Andrews, my husband and I used to watch The Sound of Music with our girls and tell them their grandma was once an actress, and that she played the character of Maria in the movie. Ditto for Mary Poppins. They believed us, and looking back at the nature of both those lead characters, I realize it was as much their grandmother’s cheerful personality as her similar appearance that caused them to fall for our white lie.

No wonder her father nicknamed her Sunny.
*(Originally published in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Lake Mary Life Magazine.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

RESCUING OLIVIA a Top Ten Pick! reviewer L. Dean Murphy named RESCUING OLIVIA one of his Top Ten Reads for 2010!

Here's the link to his (and other reviewers') Top Ten picks.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

From Kindergarten Cop to College Mom

A few months ago I started writing a new column called "Julie's Slice of Life" in Lake Mary Life Magazine, the community magazine I've been writing for since 2006. We're fortunate to have wide circulation: the magazine is delivered to over 20,000 homes throughout our county and is also available in numerous businesses. I've decided to post the columns here, too, so others outside our area could have the chance to read them. This first one ran in the September/October 2010 issue (hence the references to summer).

Julie's Slice of Life: From Kindergarten Cop to College Mom*

"How much longer?" my agent asks, referring to my next book.

She's anxious to start making the rounds to publishers, to start shopping it. The publishing world pays lip service to quality, but the greenbacks flow most freely to those who can produce a novel a year. Two a year? You're golden.

I'd call myself bronze, at best. I'm lucky if I write a first draft in fifteen months. Two years is more realistic.

"It's summer," I say. "Hard to get any writing done when the kids are home."

And that's true. But here's the thing: I don't want to get any writing done. I want to spend every waking moment with my children, because for the first time since the oldest started kindergarten, I am acutely aware of how few days I have left to watch them while they sleep, or to cook enough decent meals so that they remember me as the mom who fed them well instead of plopping another pizza on the dinner table.

Why this realization?

My oldest daughter is about to leave for college. The younger one, who just entered tenth grade, is not far behind.

I should feel lucky. The parents I know who have college bound kids have already bid their goodbyes. But my daughter's school of choice doesn't start until mid-September; we'll drive her up for move-in and orientation a few days before. So I have a few extra days to hug her and make sure she knows she'll always be my baby. Yeah, just want she wants to hear.

I can still remember vividly the day she climbed the tall steps of the school bus for the first time. We lived in the suburbs of Boston, and if autumn is synonymous with going back to school, autumn in New England, with its brilliant colors and scent of burning leaves in the air, is the quintessence of the season, at once inspiring and heartbreaking. I cried my eyes out when that bus pulled away.

My husband and I followed the bus. Yep, you didn't misread that. We followed the bus. Once we were no longer in our daughter's line of sight, we jumped in our car and quickly started the engine. Turn for turn, stop for stop, we trailed it like two spies in a James Bond movie. When the bus pulled up to the school and lined up behind the other buses to unload the children, we made a small detour, abandoned our car in the parking lot, and took our hiding places behind a bush to watch our daughter disembark. Would she be crying? Would the fear and bewilderment I was sure I'd see on her face cause me to start bawling all over again? Would the school keep the implicit promise it made to all parents and make sure she made it safely from bus to building, building to bus, bus back home again? My husband held our video camera to film this momentous occasion; I lay in wait, ready to spring forward and save the day if our little girl needed our assistance.

When she stepped down, ballet slipper bookbag on her back and posture straight with pride, I smiled. I cried, too, but they were tears of joy. Our Jessie was going to be just fine.

They say you have to cut the cord. It's painful, but all parents do it, sooner or later. I asked both of my girls recently, "Am I a helicopter parent?" The answer was a quick and resounding, "No! Not at all!" I had the sense they knew a few, and I was happy not to be among them. Yet at the same time, I wondered whether I'd been there enough, whether I'd spent too much time with my novels and not enough with my children.

When the last box is set on her dorm room floor, when we've met the roommates and deemed them acceptable, when we've said our final goodbyes and left her behind to start her new life, I only hope my scissors are sharp enough.

My husband, meanwhile, will probably be following her to her first class, video camera in hand.

*(originally published in the Sept/Oct 2010 issue of Lake Mary Life Magazine)

Monday, November 01, 2010

Never Underestimate the Power of a Female Biker

So I didn't get a chance to ride my bike for a few weeks, and then when I went out to the garage a few days before Daytona Biketoberfest to start the bike and make sure it was road ready (because I'd planned to ride down with my Chrome Divas), it wouldn't start. After looking for all the obvious problems, I described the issue to the Divas and several of them suggested I probably needed to charge the battery. I went to the shop near my house (not the Harley dealership, whose employees always treat me with respect and try to earn my business -- someday I plan to move up to a Harley and give it to them . . . ) and bought a battery tender. At this visit, like so many others to this particular shop, everyone ignored me when I walked in (despite the fact that there are always more employees than customers). I approached one of the employees and asked him about battery tenders. After several interruptions where he talked to another employee about this and that, he showed me two and recommended the larger (and more expensive) one. When I asked why, he had no good answer other than the smaller one can get hot. Hmm. I bought the smaller one. It worked fine. My battery did need charging, but I realized, once I charged it, it needed charging because I had run it down trying to start the dang bike so many times.

So, battery problem solved, but the bike still wouldn't start. It's a relatively new bike (I bought it new in Fall '08) and it doesn't have many miles on it. I ride it often, but to Daytona and back is the farthest I've ridden in one trip. So I really didn't think my problem could be anything major, something I couldn't solve on my own with a little research.

I did some searching on the internet for others who owned the same bike and had similar problems. Turns out, my problem was probably the fuel. It had sat too long, and with the new, high percent ethanol fuel, the fuel will go bad faster and can clog the system and the carbs. The solution, based on everything I read, seemed to be something called Seafoam, a type of fuel stabilizer/cleaner. I decided to give it a try.

I went back to the same shop this past weekend (despite my dislike of this place, it's where I bought the bike before I knew better, and it's the closest place around) and asked about Seafoam. They showed me a comparable product which they said worked better. I explained my problem to them, and at least three of the guys standing behind the counter insisted that I would have to bring the bike in to have the carbs cleaned, that the Seafoam-like product only works as a preventative. I asked how long this would take and how much it would cost. Three hours to clean, and another to put the bike back together. Hmm. I'd have to check with the service department to get a cost quote, they said. I didn't need to. I could guess what four hours labor would cost me, plus the cost of towing my bike in, since I don't have a trailer yet.

So I took my Seafoam-like product home and decided to try it anyway. Based on everything I'd read, it was worth a shot.

I added the appropriate amount to my fuel, gave it about an hour, and then tried to start my bike.

Guess what?

Yep, the bike started, and it's been running fine ever since.

Guess what else?

My visit to that particular shop was my last.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Barnes & Noble General Fiction Online Book Club

During the month of November, the Barnes & Noble General Fiction Online Book Club will read and discuss RESCUING OLIVIA. I'll be joining the discussion to hear what readers have to say and answer questions. Hope you'll join in!

Click here for the reading schedule, and for links to sign up with BN's online book clubs (if you don't have an account already).

Friday, July 30, 2010

"So Damn Lucky" (or How I Met Dave Matthews)

I'd been waiting all year for this past Wednesday night. It had been too long (last summer) since I'd been to a Dave Matthews Band concert and I'd been having DMB withdrawal. Plus, they recently announced they wouldn't be touring next year (the first year they've skipped in 20 years), so this summer's shows would have to last me a while. When I found out my Tampa tickets were in the orchestra pit, I was ecstatic. Can't get much better than that, right?

Wrong. It got much, much better than that.

Late afternoon on Tuesday, my DMB concert buddy Robin called me with the news that we were going to meet Dave before the Wednesday night concert. I didn't believe her. I thought she was playing a cruel, cruel joke on me. Robin and I have attended the Tampa shows together since I moved to Florida back in 2003. We even both went on the Dave & Friends cruise back in 2006. Personally, I have lost count of how many DMB shows I've been to all over the United States in the last decade or more, but it's approaching 50, I'm sure. So for someone to tell me I was going to meet Dave Matthews and not mean it? Yeah, that would be a cruel, cruel joke.

Robin's a fanatic like me; I found it hard to believe she would trick me that way, but I found it harder to believe we were going to meet Dave Matthews. I screamed, she screamed, I screamed, she screamed, my daughter who was in the car with me screamed "Mom, stop it! You're hurting my ears!" For about 40 minutes, Robin and I screamed some more.

Turns out, just minutes before, Robin got a call from The Warehouse, the official DMB fan club, of which we both are proud members. (If you're a fan, you'd be stupid not to join the fan club – as a member, you can request concert tickets and know whether you received them in advance of the public on-sale dates.) Each year, Robin and I both request two tickets to the Tampa show, and then we use the two best seats. (This year, because mine were in the orchestra pit, we were using mine.) When Robin picked up the phone, a woman introduced herself and asked Robin how she'd like to meet Dave Matthews. I don't need to tell you: Robin screamed.

We're not sure exactly how they choose whom to call. We don't think it's based upon seniority, because I've been in the fan club a few more years than Robin, and I've never received such a call. The woman gave her a quick briefing – telling her she could bring one guest (moi!), explaining what to do when she arrived at the amphitheatre, informing her that there would be four other fans there, too, with their guests, explaining how each person could bring one thing to be signed and we would all be able to take pictures.

Hmm, what to have signed?? Ever since my first book, Tell No Lies, was published, I've thought about how I might get a copy to the band. I thanked DMB in the acknowledgements section because it was their music most often playing in the background when I was writing the book. (I often joke that I'm not sure I could ever sell movie rights, because then I'd lose control over picking the soundtrack . . .) As corny as it sounds, I wanted them to know how much their music means to me.

So now, not only would I have the chance to give Dave the book in person, I could have him sign one, too. But it's a bit hard to frame a signed book and hang it on the wall in the billiards room (where much of our family's memorabilia hangs). I thought, maybe I should have him sign my concert ticket. Maybe I should have him sign an 8 x 10 glossy of one of the great pictures I took during the cruise show. Maybe I should have him sign a CD cover. Or maybe a band T-shirt? Decisions, decisions.

Nope, it had to be a book. Nothing else seemed as personal, as special, as one of my own books. Rick, Jess, and Sally all agreed: it had to be a book.

So Robin shows up the next day at my house around 2:00 p.m. She comes from Jacksonville, and then we leave together from my house near Orlando. No sooner do we pull onto Interstate 4, it starts raining. We're not surprised. It has rained every year we've been attending the Tampa shows together. Usually the rain and lightning like to have a little fun with us and wait until we're in Tampa, until we're tailgating in the parking lot of the amphitheatre or trying to find our way to our seats. So this seems a good sign. Let's get the rain out of the way.

We giggle like two school girls the whole way. The rain stops almost as soon as it starts, and we turn up the DMB music and sing our way across the state. At the fairgrounds, we set up camp in the heat and spend the next hour and a half wondering what we'll say to Dave and how we'll keep from acting like blubbering idiots. It's all we can do not to tell all the other fans around us that we're about to meet Dave, but we're afraid we'll somehow jinx ourselves. We're sweating profusely because it's SO hot, so every once in a while we get in the car and start the engine to cool ourselves off. Before we know it, it's time to head over to Will Call and wait for our escort. Once there, we immediately see others with the same, amazed "Cinderella at the ball" look on their faces, and we know they're there for the same reason. We keep pinching ourselves, convinced it must all be a dream.

Our serious-faced escort shows up, and Robin, always ballsy, says to him, "Where's your lanyard?" (The woman on the phone told Robin the escort would have a lanyard.) Leave it to Robin to check the guy's credentials . . . Without cracking a smile (you can tell he wants to, though), his hand goes to his waist, where the lanyard is clipped to his pants.

After he checks everyone's names off a list, we're given special stick-on passes that will indicate we're allowed backstage. He then walks us to the back lot, which we enter through a small opening in the fence. About twenty or thirty hopeful fans are loitering around the opening, hoping for a glimpse of Dave or one of the other members of the band (been there, done that), and we feel a bit guilty, because this time we're the lucky ones who get to go in. (This is where my husband would say, "Guilty? Do you know how much money you've contributed to this guy's career? Tickets, airfares, hotels??? You deserve to meet him!")

Inside the fence, we're greeted by the numerous tour buses, lined up, one after another. As we continue to follow our escort, I spot Tim Reynolds walking by in the opposite direction. I nudge Robin and whisper, "Look! It's Tim Reynolds!" One of the guys in our group reaches out his hand and Tim shakes it.

We're led to a small Tiki hut area behind the amphitheatre. There's a bar, stools, and several patio tables, and even though I think I'm about to melt from the heat, the last thing I want to do is sit. The escort gives us a short briefing, which is pretty funny, because after he tells us how Dave will come around and spend a few minutes with each of us, take pictures, sign whatever item we brought to be signed, etc., he says, "But once he's finished and goes on to the next fan, DON'T follow him." In other words, don't be obnoxious.

All of a sudden, here comes Dave. He just walks into the Tiki hut and strolls through the middle of us, heading in the direction we all came in from. He mumbles something, like he so often does (if you know anything about Dave, you'll know what I mean), and then he says, "I'll be right back." So we all stand there looking at each other with our mouths open and our eyes wide.

As promised, he comes back after just a few minutes. The next half hour or so passes in about 20 seconds. He goes from couple to couple, chatting a bit, posing for pictures, signing whatever . . . We're standing near the end of the whole group, which is great because it gives me time to snap some pictures at leisure. He likes to be quite a goof when he poses for pictures, giving the same devilish or silly faces he sometimes gives the crowd when he's onstage. Robin whispers to me, "I hope he doesn't do that for the picture with me." I think it's charming, though, so I don't care what look he gives. He could blow spit bubbles for the picture and I'd be okay with it.

All of us are lined up in a rough half circle, and since we're at the end, I assume we'll be the last ones he greets. Nope. About halfway around, he suddenly crosses the Tiki hut to our side. The next few minutes or so passes in a millisecond. Robin gets her picture taken with him (below), then I get my picture taken with him (first pic at top). In the same way he posed with everyone else, he puts his arm around my back and I put my arm around his back, but I'm so excited that I spontaneously fling my other arm across the front of his belly. It suddenly occurs to me that, oops, maybe I shouldn't do that. Maybe I'm being a bit too chummy. I quickly remove my arm. I think I might have even said, "Oops, sorry." But if he minds or thinks I'm being a bit presumptuous, he doesn't reveal it. Heck, maybe he doesn't even notice. He's probably thinking about his upcoming set list.

But the best part is still to come. I grab my book off the table behind me, and I open to the page near the front containing my acknowledgement to the band and hand it to him. I tell him this is my book, that I'm the author, and I point out the acknowledgement and explain why it's there. Now, mind you, I'm speaking ninety miles a minute because I'm so afraid my time is about to run out, and at first I don't even think he's registering what I'm saying. He's probably thinking, yeah, yeah, let's get on with this. He begins to sign the book, but then all of a sudden he stops and flips the cover over to look at the front jacket. Time seems to stand still (for me, at least). It feels very intentional, the way he stares at that front cover. I'm wondering, what is he doing? He opens the book up again, then, and as he resumes writing, I see him begin to personalize his message, and I get it. He looked on the front cover for my name.

When I recounted this to Rick later, Rick said, "He realized this was personal for you, that you weren't simply going to turn around and sell his autograph on the internet." I don't know if that's true, if Dave ever gave it that much thought, but I like to think so. I like to think he understood how special all of it was for me.

I thank him (at least I hope I did!), and I reach back around to the table for bag of books I brought for him – one of each, Tell No Lies and Rescuing Olivia – signed to him and the band with my own personal note of thanks. Reading material for the long bus rides, I tell him. His assistant, who'd been trailing him the whole time, says "I'll take that for him" and grabs it from me.

Dave is about to move on to the next couple when Robin and I realize he hasn't signed the shirt she brought. It all happens so fast, but I grab a camera and manage to get one more picture – Dave signing Robin's shirt. The escort then tells us to follow him, he'll lead us out. I lean over and tap the assistant on the shoulder, and when he turns to me, I motion to the bag of books and say, "You're sure he'll get these?" He says, "Yeah, I'm on his bus. Don't worry." Who knows if he's telling me the truth? But nevertheless, I choose to believe him.

Once we're out of the Tiki hut and have been set free by the escort, I think we scream again.

The rest of the night is like most Tampa DMB concerts – incredibly hot and sticky – but we barely notice because for the entire evening, we're both floating on this little cloud of pure delight. Our smiles are glued to our faces, and when the band comes onstage, those smiles get even bigger. Our seats (or rather, our standing room spots) in the orchestra pit place us just in front of the stage on the left side, where we feel Carter's every drum beat from the humongous speakers that are so close we can almost touch them. (I'm certain we lost a bit of our hearing Wednesday night.) The fans around us give us high fives when we tell them we met Dave, and like every DMB show, there's a camaraderie I've never felt at anyone else's concerts.
And then, toward the end of the concert, as if the night couldn't get any better, the band plays "Crash Into Me." It's not my all-time favorite DMB song (that would be #41), but if you've read Tell No Lies, you'll know it makes a cameo appearance in the first chapter, so hearing it on this night is extra special.

After the show, still on our dreamy cloud as we walk back to the car, Robin and I realize something: it never rained. A Tampa DMB show without rain. It reminds us of another song they played that night.

"So Damn Lucky."