Last week was a WEEK, in a good way, personally and professionally. But it threw me off my schedule and when I did sit down at my computer to write I worked on my manuscript (MS) because I have a deadline, and I’m getting paid to write it. So, last week’s newsletter about podcasts has morphed into this week’s newsletter about best intentions.Read More
The most consistent complaints I get in reviews of Stillwater is that readers hate the ending. Readers feel cheated, they say the ending is a cliffhanger, and just a way to get them to buy the second book. They’re not wrong, but they’re not completely right, either. Let me explain.Read More
This blog title reminds me of the Committee on Committees that my dad was on one time at church. But, seriously! There’s news about my newsletter! Click here to read the latest one. If you’re interested in getting a chatty, informal, and brief newsletter in your inbox every two weeks, subscribe here.
In other news:
HERESY is on sale for $2.99 across all digital platforms for the next THREE DAYS ONLY! It’s a great beach read! Trust me! Click on the “view price” button to pick which digital platform you prefer.
That link takes you to Book Bub. Are you familiar with Book Bub? It’s this great website that lets you know when digital book deals are happening. You can follow authors you love and see what books they recommend. You can recommend your own books. (You can also follow me, if you like. I’m working on adding book recommendations of my own.) But, most importantly - DEALS! Fill up your e-reader for the dog days of summer!
I should have linked to this in my newsletter, but I forgot. Barnes & Noble has been bought out by a hedge fund. That’s not always good news, but it really might be in this case. They’ve tapped James Daunt, of Daunt Books and recently the big Waterstones (England) turnaround. Daunt’s objective: make B&N more like independent bookstores and give the booksellers the ability to craft their inventory to the community it’s in. It’s been trendy the last few years to encourage readers to purchase books from independent bookstores. You totally should! But, we shouldn’t forget Barnes & Noble. As the only large bookstore left in the country, it’s success is critical to the health and profitability of the publishing industry. Read the entire article, for sure, but here’s the crux:
“Support your local corporate behemoth bookstore” may sound like an odd rallying cry. But Mutter notes that the fate of the entire book industry is intertwined with that of Barnes & Noble. “If B&N disappeared, publishers and wholesalers would have so many fewer brick-and-mortar stores to sell to, which would mean all kinds of cutbacks in sales, marketing, distribution, warehouses, etc., that service indies and B&N,” he says. In other words: Everyone who wants the US to have a thriving book trade should be rooting for Barnes & Noble to stick around.
Today isn’t about me selling you a book. Today is about me celebrating an accomplishment with the dozens of people who made this book possible. Writing might be a solitary pursuit, but no books would be on a bookstore, library, or personal bookshelf without the work of many, many people. Today, I salute and celebrate each and every one of you and say thank you for all you do.
It’s nothing short of a miracle this book is out in the world today. This was a difficult book to write, for many reasons, some of which have to do with writing, some of which do not. There were many times I thought about quitting, about giving back my advance and admitting the story was too big for me, that I wasn’t good enough, that I was beaten. Basically, I suffered from imposter syndrome for most of the year I spent writing Heresy.
Well, guess what? I won. This book is a big middle finger to imposter syndrome, among other things, and, in the end, it’s my best work to date.
I didn’t do it alone.
Thanks to my agent, Alice Spielburg, for being my biggest champion.
Thanks to Lindsey Hall, Anne Clarke, Tim Holman and the Orbit/Redhook team for having faith in me that I could deliver this book based on a very thin idea. I can admit now how very thin this idea was. Razor thin. Almost nonexistent. Hence the Year of Difficulties. Their belief in me, not wanting to let them down, is what made me keep going.
Thanks to Bradley Englert for picking up my little orphan and offering wonderful editorial insight, and for loving it as much as I do. Thanks also to Ellen Wright for being the best publicist in the world.
Thanks to my tribe of writers and pub professionals, who pick up the phone and answer my calls and texts and listen to everything from my “I don’t have a process! Why don’t I have a process yet!” rants (Brooke Fossey) to all my crazy plot ideas (Jenny Martin) to “This book is going to kill me. Will you be sad?” (Mark Hoover) to “Remind me when I have a Great Idea to keep it to myself” (Kendel Lynn/Lindsey Hall/Alice Spielburg). Thanks, too, to everyone at DFW Writers’ Workshop and Sisters in Crime North Dallas for keeping me motivated.
Thanks to historian Laura Ruttum Senturia for your invaluable help with Colorado history, to Ashlee Clark Thompson for help with the representation of Hattie LaCour, to Mark Hoover for your constant love and support and being the best first reader a writer could ask for.
Thank you to all the readers who have reached out to me, excited about my work and eager for this book. I hope the wait has been worth it! To Suehyla El—Attar, Suzanne Owen, Christy Ramirez, Diane Fenci, Jennifer Mason—Black, Blake Leyers, Carin Thrum, Heather Wheat, Terry Matthews, the Winnsboro Book Club and all of my other friends who have offered support in various ways in the last year.
To my extended family for loving me, believing in me and looking past my faults and our differences to the soul beneath.
Last, but never, ever least, to Jay, Ryan and Jack. Whenever things are darkest, I look to you three—my beacons, my true north—on the other side of the doubt, the challenges and the setbacks, and know that your love is there, waiting to embrace me.
They were the first and only all-female gang in the American West. Though the newspapers refuse to give them credit, their exploits don't go unnoticed. Now, they've got a rival male gang on their trail and an old score to settle.
Margaret Parker and Hattie LaCour never intended to turn outlaw.
After being run off their ranch by a greedy cattleman, their family is left destitute. As women alone they have few choices: marriage, lying on their backs for money, or holding a gun. For Margaret and Hattie the choice is simple. With their small makeshift family, the gang pulls off a series of heists across the West.
Though the newspapers refuse to give the female gang credit, their exploits don't go unnoticed. Pinkertons are on their trail, a rival male gang is determined to destroy them, and secrets among the group threaten to tear them apart. Now, Margaret and Hattie must find a way to protect their family, finish one last job, and avoid the hangman's noose.
I go through reading droughts. Last year was a particularly bad one. I started and put down many more books than I finished. Part of the reason was I was writing HERESY and most of the time when I'm in the writing weeds, I feel guilty taking time to read. I need to be working! But, there's also another issue I've had since becoming a professional writer: it's tough to read for enjoyment anymore. I'm too busy 1) figuring out the ending 2) wondering why the writer made a particular choice 3) lamenting that an editor swallowed their red pencil, especially for Big Name Writers. It's tough to get lost in a book once you know how the sausage gets made.
This year has been different. First, I'm not working on a book at the moment. Oh, sure. I've started a couple of projects but can't seem to stop procrastinating long enough to make much progress. So, I've been reading and listening to audio books. Below are five that stood out.
(Links below support independent bookstores. Buy from local bookstores where you can. This is why.)
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal; narrated by Meera Syal (womens fiction/audiobook)
Firstly, believe this title. It does not lie. Second, this book was an incredibly enjoyable listen. Meera Syal gives a great performance and the writing is sharp. I'm trying to read outside my culture as well as marginalized voices, and this book was a great look inside London Punjabi culture.
The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe's Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance by Anders Rydell (Non-fiction/WWII)
We've all heard about the Nazi looting of priceless artwork, but the looting and destruction of Europe's libraries and literary inheritance have been largely overlooked. This book was enthralling, fascinating, horrifying and disturbing. A must-read for lovers of WWII history and historical fiction (though this is non-fiction).
The Underground Railroad by Coleson Whitehead
I'm a couple of years late to the party on this one. Wow. WOW. What a book. The sci-fi conceit - a literal railroad underground transporting slaves to freedom - fades away as the reader visits each stop and realizes that each one is a mirror of some of the most heinous ideas/theories/actions against black people, the very ideas that have perpetuated discrimination for the last 150 years, and have enshrined this discrimination into the fabric of our society. Beautifully written and haunting. A must read.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent; Narrated by Morven Christie (historical fiction/audiobook)
I've wanted to read this book for years and I decided to listen to it because I knew I would butcher the Icelandic language in inner monologue, and I was so glad I did. Morven Christie is phenomenal. Her alto voice gives necessary gravity to the subject - the last execution in Iceland. You need to listen to this novel. Give it a few chapters. It'll be well worth it.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (romance)
I've been on a romance kick since I bought a Julia Quinn novel at a second-hand bookstore on vacation. I'd seen this book all over social media and read it based on the recommendation of Miss Haley on Twitter. I'm so glad I did. This book is pretty darn sexy for upmarket romance, though in all fairness, I haven't read upmarket romance in a long time. Is that even a genre? Maybe not. I'm calling it upmarket romance. Anyway. The heroine is on the spectrum and the hero has a full body dragon tattoo wrapping itself around his torso. Sold.
While you're over there, feel free to add my upcoming novel, Heresy, to your Want to Read shelf!
Full disclosure: this movie did not appeal to me until it started getting Oscar buzz. A mute woman falls in love with a fishman? There's nothing about that that intrigued me. Then I heard Sally Hawkins was the star. Yeah, I like her a lot. Octavia Spenser as her best friend? Richard Jenkins? Michael Stuhlberg. Michael Shannon? Okay, fishman love story, why do you have to pull me in like that?
My friend, Suzanne and I took ourselves to the movies Tuesday to see this because there was no way our husbands would walk into that theater. You either like this kind of story or you don't. And, a few years ago I'd kinda sorta tricked them into seeing a subtitled movie and I'm not sure they trust my judgment 100%. Suz, well, she's game for anything. So, off we went.
The movie was beautiful. The set direction stood out without being distracting. The ongoing motifs (the color green) and callbacks (advertising art) were ridiculously satisfying and fun. It was grounded in our past, but it was also a comical idealized version (Michael Shannon's character at home with his family). The acting, of course, was superb throughout. It was also a little gross and bloody.
And, the love story? The only way that was believable was because of Sally Hawkins. I'm sure Frances McDormand will win the Oscar, but I've seen both performances in the last week and I'm here to tell you that every single A-List actress could sell that female rage since November 8, 2016. But, making you fall in love with a merman? That's all fucking Sally Hawkins.
Give Sally Hawkins All the Oscars. She's brilliant.
Definitely worth your time.
Last week was all about publicity/marketing and researching a potential writing project. It's astounding how much time the non-writing part of writing takes up on a weekly basis. But, it all needs to be done, by me, until I can make enough money to pay someone to do it. So, buy my books or leave a review. Those are the top two ways to support an author. Any author you love.
But, I still found time to fill my entertainment bucket.
TV & Movies
Jessica Jones (Netflix)
I'm over two years late to this party, but am enjoying the hell out of a series about a complex female heroine. Jessica Jones could be considered an anti-heroine, not that she's inherently bad (she's not) or that she's a female stand-in for a bunch of male characteristics. But, she does subvert the female heroine cliche in that she doesn't try to make people like her. Her driving motivation for the first season is to help people who have been harmed by Kilgrave because of her. Guilt more than an inherent sense of goodness drives her, and that, to my mind, is revolutionary for a female character. There is one person she loves above all others, who she would do absolutely anything to protect - her best friend and adoptive sister, Trish Walker. That was another thing I loved about this show, the wonderfully complex and satisfying friendship between these two.
The new season starts on March 8, and I'm here for it.
Another Evelyne Brochu (Orphan Black) movie. It might be a little too opaque about the main character's motivations, but for viewers who only see the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through the lens of Western news, it's an essential glimpse into the lives of the everyday people.
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (in theaters & streaming)
I am mentoring a high school student in writing and I have been talking to him a lot about story logic. How the story has to make real-world sense, how characters' actions and motivations have to square with their personalities and pass the real-world sniff test. That characters drive the plot. It's understandable that an 18-year-old who is new to writing would need this lesson. That Martin McDonagh would is unbelievable.
Sam Rockwell's character, a dirty cop with a temper (as well as a freaking moron), loses his job about halfway through the movie. He gets a call from the sergeant, saying that the dead Chief of police left the dirty cop a letter. The sergeant suggests the dirty copy come by after hours, uses the PD keys he hasn't turned in to get into the station, get the letter, and leave his keys on the way out.
Does any of that make sense? Just on its face it's ridiculous that someone would suggest a guy that was fired to enter with his keys and leave them on the desk. When you know that Ebbing has been presented as if it's a small town, it makes even less sense that the sarge wouldn't take five minutes out of his day to drop the letter off, and pick up the keys. Then, when you also remember that the wife of the dead chief took the time THE DAY AFTER HER HUSBAND SHOT HIMSELF to personally deliver a similar letter to Frances McDormand...well. You realize the story logic here is nonexistent.
So, why did the writer make that choice? Because he needed Sam Rockwell to be in the station when it gets firebombed so the black inmate torturing moron can complete his redemption arc.
There are other, pretty freaking blatant, weaknesses to this script, but I'll end on the most egregious weakness - McDonagh uses black pain as a footnote for Sam Rockwell's redemption arc. He uses unjustified black incarceration as a character point for Frances McDormand's character (where she doesn't come out very well; her black friend is arrested in retaliation for the billboards and McDormand's character does nothing to help her).
Don't even get me started on the content of the letter from the Chief to the dirty cop.
This screenplay was nominated for an Oscar and if it wins it will be a travesty. This movie is overrated as brilliant because Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwall are independent film darlings, and they do give stellar performances. Too bad they are overselling a terrible script.
I went to this concert last night at The Bomb Factory in Dallas. The show was great, despite the fact that St. Vincent was alone on the stage, just her and her guitar, for the entire show. I guess her backing band was behind the curtain? I don't like all of St. Vincent's music, but I love seeing an enormously talented women freaking rocking it on an electric guitar.
This was our first time at The Bomb Factory and we give it a thumbs up. We went to Adair's, a Dallas institution, after and listened to a local band, Mitchell Ferguson. They said they were country, rock and tinged with a little gospel. No. They're a dang rock band, and they were good.
Also, Deep Ellum was insane. I thought it was struggling due to some robberies and assaults (these seem to come in waves for Deep Ellum, and businesses come and go as a result), but it looked like Bourbon Street, or Sixth Street in Austin. It was awesome.
Books & Longreads
Gee, I wonder why I'm boning up on my mysteries...
I know I've been teasing you with the hashtag #TLM7 for the last year on social media. Not only does this post reveal what that was code for, but it also reveals what you really want to know: the title, cover and book description of the feminist Western I've been working on for the last year!
#TLM7 stood for what I pitched to the publisher: Thelma and Louise meet the Magnificent Seven, and the final product has lived up to the description. All books go through changes from idea to publication, but the heart of the story—two women and their makeshift family of outlaws determined to go it alone in a man's world—is definitely intact. And, I have to admit: I love this novel to pieces.
So, without further ado, HERESY.
The Parker-LaCour Gang. The first and only all-female band of outlaws in the American West. Ignored during their time. Written out of history.
Margaret Parker and Hattie LaCour never intended to turn outlaw.
After being run off their ranch by a greedy cattleman, their family is left destitute. As women alone they have few choices: marriage, lying on their backs for money, or holding a gun. For Margaret and Hattie the choice is easy. With their small makeshift family, the gang pulls off a series of heists across the West.
Though the newspapers refuse to give the female gang credit, their exploits don’t go unnoticed. Pinkertons are on their trail, a rival male gang is determined to destroy them, and secrets among the group threaten to tear them apart. Now, Margaret and Hattie must find a way to protect their family, finish one last job, and avoid the hangman’s noose.
HERESY goes on sale October 2, 2018!
Click the link below to pre-order.
I have to be completely honest: I'm glad 2017 is coming to a close. It has been a rollercoaster of a year, professionally and emotionally. Everything that is going on in our country has distracted me to the point that my writing suffered and made the book I worked on one of the worst writing experiences of my life. It was damn hard to write, to get motivated to write. I took procrastination to an entirely new level this year, which stressed me out and made writing more difficult. My very own ouroboros.
The good news is I've finished the book and it is awesome. I am so excited for the world to meet Margaret Parker, Hattie LaCour, Grace Trumbull and Joan and Stella Elbee, and go along on their final adventure. If you liked the Sawbones series, you'll like this book, though I'm sorry to say there isn't nearly as much grit and blood in this one. Rest assured, it's still a feminist western and keeps its focus squarely on women in the West and their experiences. Though it isn't a sequel to the Sawbones series, some familiar characters will make cameos.
No, there isn't a title yet, and the release date is still October 2018. But! We should have a title, cover, book description, release date and pre-order button at the beginning of next year! Trust me, you'll know as soon as I do!
2018 is shaping up to be pretty darn good! Besides the book release in October, my events calendar is filling up nicely. But, there is always room for visiting Book Clubs! Attending book clubs has definitely been one of the highlights of 2017. I have met so many amazing people, had in-depth, fascinating discussions, and drank enough wine to...well, I probably shouldn't say. If you would like for me to visit your book club, click here and complete the contact form.
FYI, the Kindle version of SAWBONES will be $2.99 through the end of December. In January, the publisher is setting the Kindle price at $4.99 permanently! If you haven't read SAWBONES yet or have a friend you want to gift it to, now is the time!
As to news on the JACK MCBRIDE Mystery Series front: The good news is January 1st I will start work on the third JACK MCBRIDE mystery, tentatively titled, MAN OF THE YEAR. It's a tentative title because no one ever likes my titles! The bad news is, I don't have a publication date yet. Jack and Ellie fans will have to be patient for a little bit longer, but I promise you a third book is on the way!
I want to extend a very sincere thank you to all of you, my readers. You are what kept me going, kept me writing, this year. I appreciate every email, Facebook message, tweet. Thank you for coming to my events and making me feel like I am touching lives in some small way. You humble me and make me want to be a better writer. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
See you in 2018!
Tuesday night, the Texas Book Fest revealed its author lineup and guess who was on that list? ME!!! I'm beyond thrilled. For a Texas author to be invited to this book fest is, at least for me, the pinnacle of awesomeness! I'm joining an amazing group of authors including Dan Rather, Jenna and Barbara Bush, Attica Locke, Sara Dessen, Paulette Jiles, Walter Issacson, Meg Gardiner, and Jeffery Eugenides, to name just a few.
If you've never been to the Texas Book Fest you should really go. It's one of the biggest festivals in the country, is in Austin, one of the best cities in the country, and it's FREE!
Don't know my schedule as of yet, but as soon as I do, I'll post it!
I'm thrilled to announce I'm going to be at the Lubbock Book Festival on October 28, 2017! I graduated from Texas Tech and loved my time in Lubbock. I can't wait to see old friends, and make new ones! There are going to be a lot of wonderful authors there. Come see us!
I have it on good authority that sometime after the Mother's Day special runs out next week, the digital versions of SAWBONES, BLOOD OATH and BADLANDS will increase in price to roughly $7-$9/book. That's still a great deal for four hundred pages of awesomeness! But, if you can get them for the next week for less, why wouldn't you? Pre-orders should stay at the lower price.
Go forth and stock up! SUMMER VACATION IS AROUND THE CORNER!
Kobo | Nook | Google Play | iBooks
Why am I not linking to Amazon? This is why.
Until Amazon treats authors and publishers fairly or clarifies this new policy, I refuse to link to them. You are welcome to buy from them, but know that there's a very real chance that authors will not receive royalties from third party sellers. If you want to support authors, make sure to buy the books SOLD BY AMAZON and include Prime. Shipped by Amazon doesn't mean the same thing.
Digital copies are the same price regardless of the app you use, and all of the above apps are free.
The Sawbones Review Contest is over, and I have two winners!
Congrats! Expect a FB message from me with the code for the audio version of SAWBONES and details on how to receive your copy of Blood Oath!
I've got a giveaway for that!
Write a review for SAWBONES on Amazon and link to it either here in the comments below, or on my FB, or share it on social media (be sure to tag me!) and you'll be entered to win a signed & personalized copy of BLOOD OATH two weeks before anyone else!
But wait, there's more!
If you follow me on social media you'll know I'm in love with the audio version of SAWBONES. So, I'm including a code for a free audio version of SAWBONES through Downpour! Keep it for yourself to enjoy SAWBONES in a whole new way, or give it to a friend to share the SAWBONES love!
Improve your chances to win!
If you copy and paste your SAWBONES review to multiple sites (B&N, IndieBound, Goodreads) and link those as well, you'll be entered for each website! One review, multiple entries!
Be sure to tag me in your social media posts and use the hashtags #Sawbones #BloodOath!
DEADLINE IS May 8! Let's get SAWBONES to 100 reviews on Amazon!
"Kill or be killed historical romance with bandits, Pinkerton agents, bounty hunters, mystery and more. Melissa Lenhardt writes with passion and does not hold anything back." -RT Book Reviews
Laura Elliston and William Kindle are on the run-from the Army and from every miscreant in the West eager to claim the $500 bounty for Laura's capture as their own. But the danger isn't just from those pursuing them. Laura and Kindle each have demons of their own and a past that won't stay dead. Exhausted, scared, scarred, and surrounded by enemies, neither realizes the greatest danger is yet to come.
Blood Oath is the second novel in a gripping historical fiction series.
Guess what? We're having a launch party for SAWBONES at the Half Price Books on Northwest Highway! There will be a selfie station where you can take photos in front of a wanted poster, and props to let you dress up like one! There will be SAWBONES bingo with a chance to win a door prize which will include an Advance Reader Copy of the second book in the series, BLOOD OATH! There will be some sort of refreshments - finalizing that now! And, I'll be discussing SAWBONES, the series, and writing in general with my good friend & phenomenal writer in her own right, Jenny Martin!
I know some of you live out of town, but we've got you covered! If you live out of town, or just won't be able to make it to the launch, you can call the HPB store and order a signed copy! I'll even personalize it for you. Just let the store know who I should personalize it to, and HPB will get it done! They'll contact you after the launch for shipping/payment info! Super easy! Phone number is below, with date/time/address! Hope to see you there!
Tuesday, April 11
7:00 - 9:00 pm
Half Price Books
5803 Northwest Hwy
Dallas, TX 75231
Yea! It's Women's History Month where we get to learn about all of the women that have been written out of history!
And, whattya know? SAWBONES is on sale for $2.99 in a STRONG FEMALE LEADS promotion. Follow your preferred ebook platform below to check out the list, which includes some pretty awesome books.
Hello everyone! I'm so excited to be able to share the full cover for the print version of SAWBONES, which is being released on April 11. I'm absolutely in love with this cover. This baby is going to look beautiful on a bookstore shelf!
Two months! I'm counting down the days!
Click HERE to pre-order Sawbones, Blood Oath and Badlands (and the Jack McBride mysteries).