Character Chat — Loralee

Guest blogger is Loralee Anderson, a character from my novel, DEATH BY GRAMMY


Hey y’all,

It’s good to be back. Blogging once every third week is starting to get old, but since I’m not the author I don’t get a vote in frequency. In fact, I’m reminded I’m lucky to be here at all and can be shelved at any time, so I guess I’d better keep my comments to myself.

Kay’s researching a new book, but I’m not allowed to tell you anything about it either. I swear the list about what I can’t say on here grows longer every time it’s my turn to post. I wonder if Nan and Emma have lists or if she’s just picking on me. I’m making a note to ask them. Pretty soon my what I can’t say list is gonna be longer than the what I can say one.

I guess I’ll play it safe (I know that’s a new one) and just talk about me (ok, so that’s not so new -ha ha).

Let’s see . . . I went shopping for some new boots this weekend. Boots are big in Nashville, even in the middle of the summer. Girls (and women) of all ages wear them with every sort of outfit you can imagine from short shorts to wedding gowns. Of course, I’m talking about western boots, not those prissy things Nan and Emma like to wear in the wintertime.

I only buy really good quality ones and I’ve got an even dozen pair now. If you spend a little extra money, you can get some that’ll last a lifetime and be comfortable to boot. Get it, to boot? I’m on a roll today. Too bad I don’t have a gig somewhere.

I not with a band; at least not full-time. People seem to look at this red hair and think I’ll be trouble or something, but I’m no more temperamental than your next starving artist. Better than most, in fact. Lots of singers are redheads. Look at  Wynonna Judd, for example. She’s a redhead. On second thought, maybe that’s not a good example.

Have you heard about the new TV show called Nashville? ABC picked it up and it debuts October 10th. A gal named Connie Britton plays the lead. You may remember her from Spin City with Michael J. Fox. She’s a redhead–well, sort-of. Nan could sure brighten it up for her. Anyway, the show is about an aging singer and an up and coming singer competing for the same audience. They’ve filmed all over town–since March. In fact, guess who was an extra at one of the shoots. Yep, yours truly. I may end up on the editing floor (I hope not), but they hired locals as extras. It was long, hot days, but to be in the middle of the excitement, was worth every drop of sweat. I took my guitar and was going to sing while we waited around, but they took it and wouldn’t give it back until the end of the day. I guess the stars didn’t want any competition from real Nashvillians.

I’m real excited about the show ’cause then maybe people will see Nashville’s not the hick town everybody seems to think it is. We’ve got culture. We’ve just got country too…and professional football and hockey. We’re a real gem. Of course, the problem is folks might see how great it is here and move here in groves and then what would we do? We’d rather have lots of tourists, not lots of newcomers.

Well, I was supposed to be limited to 500 words and I’ve already gone over (I told you she had a list of rules!) so I better stop for today. Mark your calendar for the debut of Nashville on October 10 and look for me. I’ll be in one of the Bluebird Cafe scenes and in a couple of crowd scenes. I’m tallish and have red hair. Oh, and I’ll be wearing bright red boots.

~ Loralee


Conferences: A great place to network

There are many good reasons to attend a conference like Killer Nashville, the popular writers’ conference held this past weekend.

Of course there are the opportunities to learn. There were workshops on everything from coming up with an idea to rewriting and editing your manuscript to how to write a query and synopsis to managing your career and pretty much everything in between. One of the reasons I’ve always been high on KN is because it offers so many different options, with the opportunity to mix and match at will. Most of the time there were six sessions going on at any one time, so something for everyone. And while it seems to be mystery genre specific, many of the sessions are applicable to any genre of writing. We had romance, middle grade, young adult, non-fiction and other categories in attendance.

KN is unique from other conferences I’ve seen in they offer multiple tracks: Writing, Publishing, Career Management & Promotion, Forensic and even a Fan Track. There were a truckload of authors there willing to sign books, even for folks not attending the conference.

They did have a few “large group” meetings where everyone gathered. The opening session was a lecture by Dr. Bill Bass, the Forensic Anthropologist and creator of “The Body Farm.” Next Monday’s post will be about that session. Other group sessions included interviews with the guests of honor Heywood Gould, Peter Straub, and C. J. Box. Author, screenwriter and musician Clay Stafford, the creator of KN, moderated these sessions where the guests shared stories of both their success and struggles.

In years past, KN has offered the opportunity for participants to spend ten minutes with an agent to pitch their books. It was awfully long days for the agents–they were stuck in a room, talking one-on-one to writer after writer not really making a connection with anyone. Most of the writers were nervous and paced the hall before their pitch and found it hard to concentrate on the sessions. This year the conference organizers tried something different and I think it was a resounding success.

They had four agents and two editors. (One agent had an emergency and had to cancel at the last minute.) A roundtable format was set-up where each writer brought fifteen copies of the first two pages of his or her manuscript. Twelve writers, two agents and/or editors and a reader met for an hour and a half. This way everyone got to benefit from the feedback on everyone else’s work. In some cases the writer read his own work, with the reader only reading if the writer didn’t want to read. In other sessions, the reader read everything. After each piece was read, the professionals spent the rest of that individual’s time giving constructive feedback. If they liked someone’s work they could request more so there was the potential for participants to find an agent. The group setting seemed not to intimidate quite as much as the one-on-one sessions. The agents were still sitting in a room, but were interfacing with a group of people at a time which freed them to circulate more than in years past.

As always, it was a place to see old friends and make new ones. Clay set the conference up to have a “family” feel. He wanted the newby writer to feel free to chat with New York Times best selling authors. He wanted agents and editors to mix and mingle amongst the attendees. He wanted it real, and he succeeded.

Why don’t you mark your calendar for the third weekend in August next year? Come join the family.


Character Chat — Nan

Guest blogger: Nan Macomb, a character from DEATH BY GRAMMY


Hi guys,

Kay’s at Killer Nashville today. Technically, it’s Emma’s turn to blog, but she’s so busy with the girls starting back to school, I said I’d fill in for her. Besides, she had her chance last week and got all pissy about not getting to go to the beach with Kay and Hubby. I say let them have a little alone time. We’re with them enough.

But Emma loves the ocean. Her mom has a pool, but it’s an older one, not salt water like the newer ones. It’s not the water Em likes so much as it is the tranquility, I think. When we go to the beach, she’s the first one up in the morning and walking on the beach before the rest of us have even smelled the coffee. I like it too, but I go more for the sunsets (not much into sunrises–I need my beauty sleep) and I can see them fine from the deck of Emma’s parents’ beachhouse. Sand gets on every thing.

Before Emma’s girls were born, there were times when we’d go to Florida and I’d hang out by the pool while she and Loralee did the beach thing. They didn’t understand how I could go all that way and sit by the pool. But, hey–I could hear the ocean. Right? Loralee preferred the beach to the pool because she thought there were hotter guys there. But once the girls came along and were old enough to toddle, we had to be in the sand, building castles, burying each other, chasing waves.

I got stung by a jelly fish when I was about seven years old, so I guess there’s some deep-seated psychological reason for my pool preference. Believe you me, if I see a jelly fish, I insist we get the girls as far from the beach as possible–even if they are kicking and screaming. I do not want them to go through that experience.

Because they grew up near their grandmother’s pool, Emma’s girls can swim like fish. Both of them. I think they learned to swim before they learned to walk. Seriously. When we go to Florida we have to remind them about rip tides and under tows and we keep a close watch.

We can drive to the beach in about seven hours. Emma’s folks have a beach house we use pretty much any time we want and it’s big enough for all of us, even if they are down there too. She comes from a large family –six kids and a station wagon. Me, I’m an only child, as is Loralee, so it was quite the experience for the two of us growing up, to see family life from a different point of view.

If you don’t have anything to do today head on over to Killer Nashville. They have a “Reader’s Track” so you don’t even have to be a writer. If I didn’t have to work…

Have a great weekend.

~ Nan


It’s Killer Nashville Week

Excitement looms in Nashville because Killer Nashville starts on Friday. I can’t wait.

This year’s guests of honor are C.J. Box, Heywood Gould and Peter Straub. Not too shabby! Last year’s guest of honor, Jeffrey Deaver will provide live music at the awards dinner with his XO Band.

The conference offers something for everyone with seven distinct session tracts: general writing, genre specific writing, publishing, career management, forensics, screenwriting, and sessions for fans. What’s great is you can pick a tract and stick with it or mix and match, which is what I’ve done in years past.

In addition there will be breakout sessions for intense study, a realistic mock crime scene to be solved, authors, law enforcement folks (always nice at a thriller, suspense, and mystery writers’ conference), agents, editors and more–lots more.

Seven agents plus two editors are slated to attend. In years past, writers could sign up for a one-on-one pitch session. This year the conference organizers are trying something different. There will be multiple “round-tables” where twelve writers, two agents and/or editors and one reader will participate. Each writer will bring the first two pages of his/her completed novel (fifteen copies—one for each person at the table), the reader will read it aloud, and the agent and/or editor will make comments and offer suggestions. If the author is shy he/she may leave her (I’m going with the feminine) name off the work. The agents/editors may request to see more if they wish, but the intent is for the session to be educational not only for the author’s own work but for the other work that is read.

“My” agent, Sara D’Emic, won’t be attending but Paula Munier a Senior Literary Agent at Talcott Notch Literary will be there. I’m super excited because I’ll get to meet someone face to face from “my” agency. I’ve volunteered to pick her up from the airport. Well, duh!

The best news of all: It’s not too late to register. Full three-day registration is $180 ($119 for full-time teachers, students or Senior Citizens. Now, that doesn’t include meals, but come on. Where else can you get a conference with so much content for this price?

I hope to see you at this year’s Killer Nashville.



Writer’s Block

Friday is typically when the characters from my novel, DEATH BY GRAMMY, take turns blogging, but for some reason I had trouble channeling Emma this week. I finally gave up and decided to write the doggoned thing myself. Maybe she’ll be more cooperative next week.

It’s been a whirlwind of activity for Hubby and me the last few days. On Wednesday, we journeyed eight hours south to Pensacola where we met up with some of my relatives. My cousin, Sean Heritage, is the outgoing Commander of NIOC (Navy Information Operations Command), and we were honored to attend the Change of Command ceremony.

Sean is one of those unassuming guys who gives everyone else credit for his success. He even broke with tradition and let the rank-in-file plan the ceremony–and he didn’t know what they had planned. That tells me he’s a good leader. He built a team he could empower to organize such an event where the guest speaker was a three-star admiral, and he trusted them to do it. It struct me the more he tried to hand off his success to others, the more acclamations actually came his way. It was sort of a boomerang effect.

One of my favorite things about Sean is his philosophy, “Fear of failure is the most debilitating fear of all.” What? Is he encouraging his folks to fail? He’s encouraging them not to fear trying. Another Seanism: “I’d rather have a life of ‘oh wells’ than a life of ‘what if’s.'” Does this sound like the military to you? It sounds like a confident leader and a good father to me.

Back to the Change of Command: it’s easy for ceremonies such as this to turn into fond farewells, but there was no doubt in the sincerity of his command’s respect and admiration for him. When Sean and I discussed it later, he was a little embarrassed (though flattered) that they focused on him instead of the team they’d built under his leadership.

And why wouldn’t they? I learned (not from him) he made a point of knowing something about each person in his command. He held a one-on-one interview with each and every sailor as he or she came into or left his command. That took a lot of face time, but it was a priority to him…a priority that made his team stronger and made him a better leader.

I loved his humility and his ability to show and share his emotions. When he stood to make his remarks at the ceremony, he began by saying his allergies had been acting up and his eyes had been leaking all week. Lots of eyes leaked during the ceremony…and beyond. I guess it’s a family trait.

When it was over, a line as far as I could see waited to shake his hand and speak with him one more time. Some waited an hour or longer. Some brought their families, including a brand new one-week-old baby to share with their former commander. He was their leader. It was obvious in so many ways—big and small—they hated to see him go.

But what’s most impressive to me is he’s even more devoted to his wife and son than to his job. Hubby and I marveled at what great parents Sean and his wife are to their nine-year-old. They are consistent, always loving and tender, and they respond when necessary; they don’t react. It’s obvious Sean applies some of the same skills at both work and home.

So, as I sit on the balcony of a beautiful beachfront condominium he arranged for us, with mint-green water lapping onto the whitest beaches anywhere and a glass of wine at my side, I think perhaps it was fitting my character had writer’s block today…because this one needed to be written…by me.



P.S. I highly recommend Sean’s insightful blog, Connecting the Dots.



Date night

Hubby and I had a date night over the weekend. Technically, since it’s just the two of us, I suppose any time we go out, it’s a date, but this one was planned: dinner and a movie. We even got our movie tickets in advance online.

After a nice dinner we arrived at theatre a little early. We got settled in our seats and were watching the previews. Turn off your phones. Don’t text. Go buy refreshments. Emergency exits…

I admit I usually tune out these announcements. I figure if the theater catches on fire I can find my way out. I tune them out on airplanes too, but that’s another story.

As we sat waiting for the movie to begin, for the first time I can remember, I checked out the exits. I went so far as to make a plan. I leaned over to Hubby and told him, “If a gunman attacks, drop to the floor and stay down.” I didn’t expect a reply, but he responded immediately: “If a gunman attacks, I’ll push you to the floor and fall on top of you.” Huh.

I then proceeded to tell him why our heads should go to the right, not to the left; why we should both lie flat on the floor, heads down, playing dead if necessary.

Two things struck me about this. First, we’re both pretty laid back, yet independently we’d each made a plan. After what happened in Colorado a few weekends ago, that shouldn’t surprise me, but it did. The other thing was my need to control the scenario. I told Hubby what to do. He offered an alternative solution, then I modified it. Why do I do that?

On a more upbeat note, the movie was delightful. Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones made me laugh and made me cry – for me the sign of a hit.


Character Chat — Loralee

Guest blogger is Loralee Anderson, a character from my novel, DEATH BY GRAMMY



Lawsy, can you believe these olympics? My butt’s been so glued to my couch that if it weren’t for the commercials, I’d probably starve to death. And the commercials about the athletes’ mothers–they say they’re for Proctor and Gamble. Do they make Kleenex or something? Every one of them makes me cry.

I tried having Olympic open houses where friends could come and go as they pleased, but every time they held a medal ceremony I turned into a blubbering idiot. I finally had to limit my company to just Nan and Emma. Of course I TiVo’ed the gymnastics to watch during the daytime with Emma’s daughters who are five and seven and as limber as noodles. Don’t be surprised if you see them at the 2024 games.

A few months ago, I did a month-long gig in a downtown bar that was struggling financially–mainly cause the owners were fighting like cats and dogs, but that’s another story. I was doing okay and let them go a few weeks without paying me. When they gave up and closed the doors, they offered me one of their 52″ flat-screen HD televisions. Now, I confess I have to work hard not to be a couch potato and I knew this weren’t going to help me none. But it was take it or get stiffed so I brought it home and vowed to only watch it on weekends and special occasions like The Olympics and American Idol.

While I loved the gymnasts, it was the USA swim team that really won me over. Could the reason be they weren’t so intense? They seemed to actually have fun and even made a music video. You know that won my vote!  And being kind of loose paid off for them in the medal count, for sure.

As I write this (with three days of London games left) the US has 90 medals, including 39 gold. Over a third (31) of the medals are in swimming — 16 gold, 9 silver, and 6 bronze. The next largest category for the US is track and field with 24. And there are still a couple of swimming events to be held so that count could go even higher.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know Michael Phelps (yep, swim team) has won a record 22 career medals. This year he got 4 gold and 2 silvers. Not to be outdone, 17-year-old Missy Hamilton from Colorado also won 4 gold and 2 silver medals, more than any US woman EVER in any Olympic sport. How about that? Now she gets to go home and be a normal high school senior. You think?

I’m so inspired when the Olympics are over I might even head to a pool myself. Now, that’s saying something since I don’t even swim!




Olympic best

I took the weekend “off” to read a couple of novels and watch the Summer Olympics. I feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

Event after event I watched in awe as the young Olympic athletes performed after years of training. For some it was their first Olympics; others were veterans. Some seemed nervous; others excited. Many waved to their fans both in the spectator stands and watching from around the world. I watched the excitement of both expected and unexpected wins as well as the disappointment of heartbreaking losses.

But, all of these athletes were winners simply because they were there. After the women’s 100 meter relay a reporter asked first-time Olympian, thirty-two-year-old Carmelita Jeter if she was disappointed she hadn’t won the gold in her race. She had finished 3/100 of a second (a second!) behind defending gold medalist Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Carmelita Jeter showed her maturity when she smiled brightly and said, “I just won a silver medal.”

Perspective. It’s all about perspective. Ms. Jetter could have spent the moments following the race  playing the “if only” game. “If only I’d leaned forward… If only I’d come off the starting block faster…” Instead, she chose to embrace the moment and savor that she had just medaled in The Olympics. The Olympics!

There’s something here all of us can learn. There will always be someone out there who’s better at what we do that we are. Always. Even Ms. Fraser-Pryce has a next race to run. But if we do our personal best, we deserve to take pride in our work whether it wins a Pulitzer or sits in the bottom drawer of our desk and is never read by another person. It’s a waste of time and energy playing the “if only” game. We are writers. Let’s celebrate. That in itself is an accomplishment.

~ Kay

Character Chat – Nan

Guest blogger: Nan Macomb, a character from DEATH BY GRAMMY


Hi guys,

I’ve been so busy slipping out between appointments to watch the Summer Olympics I almost forgot it was my turn to blog,

I don’t keep a television in my salon. It’s a tiny space—as in one-client-at-a-time tiny. I have a shampoo chair, a work chair and a chair for the color processor/dryer. I suppose I could mount a flat screen high on the wall, but if my clients were watching TV, I might miss out on some of Nashville’s best gossip—gossip I’d never repeat, of course, especially on a blog. I prefer jazz or classical music playing softly in the background. Installing overhead speakers was one of the best investments I ever made. I’ve found quiet music inspires conversation.

Back when I was growing up, my mom and even my grandmother colored their hair because the whole concept had a stigma attached to it. They either did it themselves at home or made a big deal about getting the last appointment of the day so no one would see them at the beauty shop. I remember my mom once talking her hair stylist into opening her shop at night so no one would see her getting her roots done. There was even a TV ad for Clairol with the tag line, “hair color so natural only her hairdresser knows for sure.” Whatever.

Pretty much everybody gets their hair colored these days and don’t care who knows it. Men, women, teenagers. Highlights. Lowlights. Twilights. I like to use foil and I tear my own. Why pay for foil strips when I can make them myself? I will also balayage (hand paint) some clients’ hair, and sometimes I use both foil and balayage on the same person. It just depends. One thing you can count on: I will never, ever, use a cap. I had my hair pulled through one of those things once and vowed on the spot I wouldn’t have them in my shop. I don’t believe in torture and I’m betting it’d hurt  me as much to do it (I’m pretty squeamish) as it’d hurt my client.

I trained in NYC the year after I graduated from college. I wanted to go straight to cosmetology school after high school, but my parents insisted I go to college. The deal was if I graduated, they’d let me go wherever I wanted. Of course, they thought I’d change my mind, but I’m a stubborn sort. I majored in business, then went to New York to learn from the best. They said wherever I wanted. Then I came back to Nashville and set up my own shop.

True, I work out of my home, but I did that to keep my overhead low. I decided I wanted a one-woman shop and I created a niche market. I’ve got a client list some of the bigger salons would kill for. I offer privacy and anonymity. I keep up on the latest trends and, if I do say so myself, I’m pretty well-known here in Nashville. I don’t even have a listed number any more. All of my clients are by referral.

Well, I think I’ve rambled on enough for today’s post. I’d planned to write about the Olympics. Funny how these blogs take on a life of their own, isn’t it?

I think Loralee will be up next Friday. I’ll be back in three weeks.