Books & Reading, Writing & Life
After twenty-some years of making up imaginary people I’ve noticed a trend in my work. That I am partial to secrets is perhaps a given in a mystery writer. Secrets, hidden facts, and unknowns from the past make up the plots of most mysteries. But I’ve also noticed that I like a good secret identity. A secret self.
The Self: what is it exactly? Part nature, part nurture, a combination of the the blending of genetic material and the loving (or not) people who care for you as you grow. Before a person has children they often think whimsically about how they will bring up their children *just so,* avoiding all the perceived mistakes of their own childhoods. After their baby is born a new thought pops vividly into play: “This child has his own ideas!”
So it is with characters. Bringing a fictional person to life on the page takes a strong will, persistence, and luck, combined with the raw talent with words and feelings that make a writer tick. Yes, feelings. A writer must have a well of emotion that isn’t far from the surface. The so-called Self of fiction is both the person the character presents to the other characters and the emotional life she often hides from them. That this hidden Self holds secrets about her identity that she doesn’t want anyone to know is just human nature. There are parts of each of us, our innermost Self, that we guard with every fiber of our being. Things that make us ashamed, emotions we aren’t proud of, our jealousies, our envies, our weaknesses we hope desperately nobody has noticed. Just like real people characters hide the real core of themselves. But as writers we have to know that core, to understand the way people trick themselves and manipulate others, to just plain “get” human nature in all its sometime weirdness.
In my latest novel, Gillian Sargent has hidden her past quite well, and with good reason. But when she disappears the Bennett Sisters, lawyers and sleuths, must dig deep to find her before something bad happens to her. This involves outing her real identity, whether she likes it or not. For much of the book she is a cypher: The Girl in the Empty Dress, all external perception but nothing inside. This is the way we perceive most people we don’t know well — which is of course most people. Most people wouldn’t try so hard to hide their past though, unless there was something really juicy to hide. Does that apply to Gillian Sargent? But of course.
The theme of the secret identity is also a big part of PLAN X, my Rory Tate thriller from 2013. A professor of Shakespeare is badly burned in a bomb blast in a college lab. The heroine, Cody Byrne, a policewoman, is tasked with finding his next of kin who appear to be nonexistent. Unwilling to let go of the case that may help her get past her PTSD from an Iraq tour, Cody embarks on an unauthorized journey to find out his real identity. Along the way she finds out more about her own self. This is something that fiction does better than real life: make connections and parallels that make the world make sense, if only for a moment. Real life is much more random. It’s cruel and its timing sucks.
Writing fiction is about writing characters. Yes, you have to know how to plot but it’s your characters and their secret selves that carry your story. It’s the difference between the outer story (the events that happen to and by characters) and the inner story (the emotional journey your main character is on). The inner story resonates much deeper with readers even as they hang on the suspenseful events of the plot.
Ying and yang. Plot and characters. The outer shell and the real Self: you can’t have one without the other.
The Girl in the Empty Dress is the sequel to Blackbird Fly, my 2009 novel about New York lawyer Merle Bennett. When Merle’s husband dies suddenly he leaves behind a lot of troubles, financial and emotional, plus one ancient stone house in France. Workaholic lawyer Merle decides to take the summer off and go to France and fix up the house to sell it. But her plans go awry almost immediately. Along the way she meets many interesting villagers and grows to love the Dordogne, a province in Southwest France.
Now, she’s back a year later, celebrating her 50th birthday with all four of her lawyer/sisters, plus one sister’s friend. Gillian Sargent is moody and aloof and when she wants to keep an injured dog she finds by the side of the road, the vacation takes a turn. Truffles, intrigue, wine, and romance await the Bennett Sisters, and you, dear reader.
Can’t get enough France? I know what you mean. So I’ve created a new place to hang out called France Sisterhood. We’re just getting started over there. I’d love to have you write something for me that’s French-related, like your favorite wine or cheese, memories of a trip, that amazing chocolate shop, or your favorite macarones. Check it out and follow your sisters (brothers are also welcome!) to France Sisterhood. We’re also on Facebook.
Stop by my Facebook page this weekend and comment on the virtual wine and cheese party we’re having. You’ll be entered to win some cool prizes including free e-books!
Springtime!? It’s almost here. In my office it’s a time to regroup, plan, and finish up projects. As I wrap up The Girl in the Empty Dress and before I start my next novel I want to share a little of my writing process for other writers.
This book took me less time to write than most of my other novels in recent memory. (I have written a good handful that have never seen the light of day, including that one where I tried to write ten pages a day. What a mess that one was.) Anyway, I got organized this time. Experience with the process is a big help of course. Every time I write a novel I learn a little more about what works and what doesn’t. I can more swiftly recognize when I’m off track or something is just plain boring. More often I write something off-base that is GORGEOUS and HEARTWRENCHING. That doesn’t mean it makes the cut. Usually the opposite.
This time I used two tricks. The first is a software program called Scrivener. You may have heard of it or used it yourself. I know I’ve tried to use it before. It looks like this, an on-screen bulletin board with index cards for chapters, files for characters and settings on the left, and so on. So far, so good, right? I’m pretty visual and looking at it on the computer screen, being able to quickly shift back and forth between outline and manuscript is helpful.
I admit, I am a pantser. In the past I have written rough outlines of novels and mostly knew how they were going to start and how they were going to end. The middle? The dark, murky unknown. But guess what? It’s harder that way. One of the problems that comes up is the sudden appearance of a new character, small or large. What is their name? What do they look like? What is their agenda? (Every character has an agenda.)
Okay, so I’m getting organized, thinking about all the possible characters, how they interact, what they want. But how is this helping with the plot? In a crime novel especially the plot matters. It matters as much as the characters. Well, almost as much. In some thrillers the plot matters more than the characters. Plotting and structure is the first big hurdle for most beginning writers.
My second trick: using a Scrivener template. Yes, they are out there, templates that use the program but overlay it with story structures based on certain authors or genres. My template is from one of my favorite writing books, Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering. His website, StoryFix.com, is also a wealth of information.
Someone else has developed a Scrivener template based on his Beat Sheet. (Here are a number of useful Scrivener Templates.) I do recommend reading the book first but in case you want to jump in with both hands on the keyboard, here’s the short version. Beats are where the story changes, similar to plot points. There are small beats and large beats. The basic structure is shown in the first screen shot: Set up, Response, Attack, Resolution.
Seems simple, right? Well, structure looks simple from the outside but putting it into practice, making your story work the most effective way it can, is both simple and incredibly nuanced. And, just like the old plot outlining you may have done, things go awry. Those chapters you stuck in for part three because you really had no idea how things were going to go? They get changed. Many scenes changed and clarified for me as I went along. That’s called creative writing. But because I knew how much time I had until the next Story Beat, what needed to happen before that Beat, I stayed on track. That’s what these tools do for you. They don’t tell you how to write your book, they make it easier to see your goals, what your story needs to do and when it needs to do it.
Here’s how my Attack section, part three, looked when I finished. The Attack section, a reaction to the problems set forth in the first two sections, is full of short, punchy chapters, lots of action, comings and goings. The board reflects this with all 14 cards full. In other sections I didn’t have 14 chapters that Scrivener gives you (you can add more.)
There are all sorts of writing tools that help you outline and organize. Finding one that works for you can be a struggle. But after using Scrivener and the template this time, I think I’ve found a winner. But who knows. Maybe I’ll reinvent myself for the next book. (Oof. What a thought!) No, I think I’ve got a system now. Time to get going on the next book!
Some say (over at Porter Anderson’s post at Writer Unboxed) that few writers “earn out” so it’s academic. Earning out means making enough royalties to go over your advance on royalties you got at publication. But if you got a higher, more equitable royalty from e-book sales you would earn out faster, of course. And advances being so low for so many traditionally published authors, many will earn out especially given the long life of the e-book. It will never go out of print like the hardcover and even the paperback.
Interesting glimpse into a publisher’s accounting sheet.
So when was the last time you bought a hardcover for $27.99? I just bought Karen Joy Fowler’s “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.” I met up with her again at the Jackson Hole Writers Conference and wanted a signed copy. On the other hand I spent $14.99 on Kate Atkinson’s latest, “Life After Life,” as a Kindle book. Switch-hitter, that’s me.
Sign up to win one of the copies of my new Rory Tate thriller, PLAN X, to be given away over at Goodreads! Just under two weeks left to enter, don’t delay! [Contest ends July 25.] You might win a paperback copy worth a whopping $14.99! You belong to Goodreads, don’t you? So much great reading over there, if you don’t, you should.
New review says: “I almost missed my flight because of this book–and I was sitting in the airport. Former Army bomb scene investigator and Montana police officer Cody Byrne embarks on an escapade that reaches from a lethal explosion in a Montana State University biology lab to the venerated halls of Oxford. In a race to stop a vengeful murderer, Byrne must confront not only the PTSD that lingers from her Iraq War days, she is forced to take on the heavies at MI5 and a tangle of family secrets. Read Plan X and let author Rory Tate lead you on a thrilling adventure.”
I’ve spent a lot of time in the car recently, listening to audiobooks and music on SiriusXM. I admit it, I have become a raging fan of satellite radio. (My favorite channel is 30, The Loft. My husband’s favorite is Outlaw Country.) Out here in the West, with miles of open country between towns, without satellite radio you either put on an audiobook or fiddle endlessly trying to get a signal from an FM station. Love my SiriusXM.
The other day I was listening to an interview by a DJ with a musician. The DJ asked him about his eclectic tastes in music: blues, jazz, rock, folk. Was diversity like that important to him? He said, yes, but — and this is what stuck with me — if you want to make money in music, you have to have something that appeals to a wide range of people. Some like blues, some like jazz.
This struck me as antithetical to what we often hear in publishing. Brand yourself! Write a series! If someone reads a book they like by you, they will want something similar next time. Hook them! Give them more!
At a convention once a well-respected, well-published novelist said, rather chagrinned, that he had to continue his series because “that was the product they wanted.” They: his publisher. Another throwaway line that stuck with me for years. To refer to your novel as “the product” — okay, to a publisher it is a commodity, I get it — seemed so wrong. It still does. Your novel should come from deep inside you, should give us a glimpse of what makes you tick, what puts the twinkle in your eye, what keeps you awake at night. If you view it as “a product” I wonder if it will come from that deep place, or will it be written for the marketplace.
Musicians went through the digital disruption phase we’re experiencing now in publishing decades ago with Napster and iTunes. Many of them ended their record label deals and went indie. Many went straight to indie. Like musicians writers wanted more control over their careers, their output, their money stream. They developed strategies to give away songs to get buyers to purchase the album, they went completely digital, they went back to vinyl, they make videos for youtube, they tour, they don’t tour. All sorts of ideas that writers can learn from. Experiment with marketing but control the “product,” the essence of what you do. Don’t make compromises with what only you can do.
We had a little discussion at the novel-writing workshop last week. One woman objected to even the whiff of marketing or audience, saying that not everyone is interested in having their work read. I agree, but most are. Most writers want that two-way communication with readers. They want to be heard. Writing, unlike most music-making, is solitary. When the work is written, rewritten, polished to a shine and sent out into the world, writers want to be read. If you’ve graduated from amateur to professional, you want an audience, whether you’re a writer or a musician. Just remember, I always tell students, only you can write your book.
Although I’m mostly a crime writer last year I published a book that meant a lot to me, All Your Pretty Dreams. (It was originally called Squeeze Box but I feared the anti-accordion lobby.) I started writing this book in 1997 as a Pride and Prejudice pastiche set in an isolated Minnesota town. Originally the schtick was that the town had the only lake without mosquitoes in Minnesota. I dropped that idea, dropped the manuscript itself for years. But it wouldn’t go away, the idea of a family polka band as the Bennetts of Longbourne. It was silly but that’s what I loved about it. Finally I spent one summer figuring out how to actually write the damn thing. It’s different from my other books. Nobody gets killed. But there is a birth, a death, and a change of heart. Just like Darcy and Elizabeth.
The sales of this oddball book have not been amazing in the year since its release. But it’s gaining an audience, slowly. Recently I’ve gotten reviews from people who have read my mysteries and gave this one a try. That’s all a writer asks. Give me a go. Just like a musician who writes blues for blues lovers and folk for folkies.
Have you discovered a musician lately? Where did you find them? On the radio, on the internet? What about a new writer? How did you find them? Discovering musicians is just like discovering writers. If somebody sounds interesting, give them a go. You never know. You may find your new favorite writer.
Digging deep into your character for the real story.
What is it about inner demons? Every book on novel writing seems to stress them. The hero on his journey always packs them along. The Tin Woodsman wants a heart, the Cowardly Lion wants to be brave. Luke Skywalker has his ‘father.’ But why do we really need these interior problems deviling our protagonists?
You don’t. You can write a purely fantastical story without any angst or demons. It will be one-dimensional and a bit shallow, and will not be satisfying for certain readers, but it will entertain some. Think of The Da Vinci Code, for example. What inner demons did Robert Langdon have? The fact that women find him incredibly attractive? He doesn’t really have any demons and thus as a character is rather unsatisfying. He’s a trope, he serves a plot purpose and does that well, scampering here and there, one step ahead of the law and the church. But The DaVinci Code works as pure adrenaline plot.
So it depends on the type of story you like to read, and/or write. If you want to make your story more than a plot but aren’t sure how to figure out what your main character is about, try interviewing them. When I was working on the story development for PLAN X, my new novel, I knew the MC would be a woman, a cop, have an Army background, and have just lost her brother in Afghanistan, but that wasn’t enough. I couldn’t feel her. I couldn’t hear her. I couldn’t get inside her. I need to do all those things to feel confident that I can tell her story.
So I interviewed her one cold January day. I tried to do some reflective listening. Lots of story details have changed. She went from being a cocky FBI agent with some female swagger, to being an Army Reservist at the Bozeman Police Department. She didn’t have panic attacks yet, but she is angry and and alone. This was where I started thinking about how she viewed the world, and what that meant for the story. Here’s how it went.
Q: Why did you decide to become a cop?
A: Mostly by accident. My brother was in the Army then, so I joined up after college. Also because I was in ROTC in college. I knew I had to pay it back. Our parents weren’t, well, how to say this nicely — forthcoming in the tuition department. We both had to put ourselves through school. I chose the MPs and never looked back. I wanted the action.
Q: What else do you want?
A: I want to find out why my brother had to die. I want to find out what exactly he was doing in Afghanistan because I know he wasn’t just doing some reconnaissance mission like the Army says. He was a Green Beret. Or he used to be. I have a feeling he was working for the CIA but I don’t know. Nobody will tell me anything.
Q: Does it really matter?
A: Hell, yes! This is my country, my army. I haven’t been in for seven years, since I was 26, but I have a strong allegiance to the service. I want to know if it failed him. I have a feeling, like I said, that it did, but I could be wrong. I need the facts. I have always been a gut-driven investigator but only because then I can get the facts to discredit my gut feeling.
Q: Could it just be that you’re grieving?
A: Fuck you! You don’t know what it’s like to lose the one person in the world who was solid, moral, a rock in your life. Taken away from you for reasons that no one will explain.
Q: But he was working in service to his country. Isn’t that enough?
A: I told you, no! It’s not enough. I need the facts.
Q: You sound angry.
A: Hell, yes, I’m angry. I’ve lost my brother.
[they discuss the FBI. At this point she was an FBI agent.]
Q: Why do you think you’ve been getting less and less important assignments?
A: Because I’m not a kiss-ass. The FBI is full of ass-kissers.
Q: Do you even like men?
A: I like men. But respect is something a man has to earn. My brother spoiled me for that.
Q: He sounds like he was quite a guy.
Q: Are you crying?
A: No. Leave me alone. He was my brother. My best friend. He could do anything. He made me feel like I could do anything, like he had my back. Always in my corner.
Q: You sound alone.
A: Isn’t everybody? But yes, I am more alone than anytime in my life. And it scares me. Will I always be alone? Will I say, hey, my life doesn’t matter and do something stupid that gets me killed? I can see it happening and it puts a chill on my spine. I’ve seen it before. Not the killed part, but the shot part, the hero thing.
Q: Do you want to be a hero?
A: I want justice. I want to do the right thing. I want to know the truth. I have a hard-on for the truth. Yeah, I know, even though I’m a woman I have a hard-on. It’s just a phrase. You have to get into male lingo if you want to be accepted in the FBI. It’s very macho.
Q: Do you consider yourself macho?
A: Not really. Macho is a posture that men adopt to make themselves feel better. It’s stupid and false. If you need to act macho you aren’t really that sure of your abilities.
Q: Are you sure of yours?
A: I can hit a bullseye at 50 yards with my right hand, and 100 yards with my left. My specialty is people. I get a vibe off people. I know, lots of people say that. But I can scan a crowd and almost instantly get a vibe if there’s a bad actor out there. Then I walk through the crowd and pick out the source of the vibe. I don’t always know what it is the person has done or is thinking about doing or is carrying, but I can pick him out. But mostly I just feel all the meanness in the world.
Q: That sounds like a burden.
A: Yeah, sometimes it is. It makes me realize how badly so many people are brought up, how little love there is in the world, how little kindness and good will.
PLAN X is out now on Amazon.
All writers owe a huge debt to William Shakespeare, whether they write in English or something else. He is, of course, just one of our storytelling forefathers but arguably the most important one. Prolific, diverse, and inventive, he truly was the most amazing playwright ever.
My new novel has a Shakespeare theme. I even wrote a few couplets (gulp.) The story involves a possibly fraudulent Renaissance or Elizabethan document, that may or may not be a Shakespeare play. The tantalizing prospect of an undiscovered play has teased Bardolators for centuries. Plus there is the fact that none of the surviving plays have ever been found in his own handwriting, only the printed folios. The only example we have of Shakespeare’s handwriting is his signature on his will.
So what if… something came to light? But strangely, no one wants it to come to light? This is the story in PLAN X. Coming out next week! To celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday in April, Goodreads made this awesome flow chart to help you read a play by the Bard. You will see ‘Two Noble Kinsmen’ in there, his last play. That’s the clue today, kind readers!
You will have heard this writing nugget, that the start of a novel is the most important section. Of course you have. All readers know this instinctively. They read the first page of a long story, see if anything in those first few paragraphs grabs them. The trick for the writer then is to make that first page catchy, intriguing in some way, as well as jump-start the story to come.
But we don’t read novels just for plot. We want to care about who takes us by the hand and leads us on this journey. We want to trust and like this person, or at the very least be captivated by him. Good or bad, this narrator must squeeze hard on our hands right off the bat, yanking us out of our everyday lives into a rollicking tale. So as writers we must cut to the chase. No lengthy descriptions please. No general loveliness. We want to, no we must, get this party started with a bang, not a whimper.
In my new novel, PLAN X, written under my nom de plume Rory Tate, I knew how the story would begin, with an actual bang, an explosion in a lab on the Montana State University campus in Bozeman. With a call-out to the police, answered by my heroine, a young officer just back from a Reserve tour in Iraq. But how to start in the action — this is a thriller after all — and also impart something of who my protagonist is? Because thriller or not, the inside story is about this character, what she’s seen, how she copes, who helps her cope.
Over a few drafts the lead-up to the 911 call about the explosion shrank, and shrank some more. I had some scene-setting, then it was gone. I had some decision-making, and then it was gone. Finally, I had her in the car, driving to the scene. That allowed me to add specific details about who she is. So this is the first page of PLAN X, the final version, draft too-many-to-count:
The night air rushed in the patrol car’s window, cooling Cody Byrne’s cheeks as she hit the pedal hard, siren blaring. Streetlights made pools of white on the empty blocks. She screeched around the last corner, smiling. Her Army unit would love this. They didn’t call her Speedy for nothing. Then, she entered the chaos zone: fire trucks, ambulances, patrol cars, sheriff’s cars, campus cruisers. Red and blue lights bounced over the scene. Smoke and flame roiled from windows on the corner of the second floor of a university building. A lab had exploded, dispatch said. In the dark it looked like a movie set, lit from within by a magical force.
Her heart was thumping through her uniform as she pulled the car to the curb. She jogged past cruisers and ducked under yellow tape, trying to contain the exhilaration. Action: god, she loved it. The tingling in her fingers, the edge so close. The thrill would engulf her with its seductive ways, wrapping its arms around her, hugging the fear out of her. Would excitement kill her or cure her? Was there any other way to live but like this, in the middle of everything?
She took a breath. The smoke was pungent. Stay calm. Right now she wanted it, all of it. The good, the bad, the freaking drama of it all. But she had to stay cool. Firefighters pulled on hazmat suits. Smoke, nerves, shouts of Now! Bro! Let’s do it! She wanted a chemical suit, a vest, a tank. She was just a police officer but she wanted to go.
Much of police work is tedious, paperwork, routine stuff. But like Cody Byrne, cops live for action. Like all our brave first responders, this is their moment, when tragedy strikes and they are needed.
Flames leapt from the windows. A television news crew arrived and jumped into the fray with their cameras and mikes. The smell of the scene was different, chemical. Orange licked the eaves, acrid smoke blackened the brick above. The throng of firemen shouting orders came together, broke apart, grabbed tanks. EMTs huddled with their kits, waiting their turn.
Then a blast rocked them. The air sucked in, then exploded over them. The concussion was terrifying, a blow to the solar plexus like the crush of an avalanche. Firemen closest to the building fell like dominos, blown onto their backs. Cody staggered sideways, her ears ringing as she threw herself to the ground behind the fire truck’s big tire. The boom echoed off the building opposite, reverberating as it came to rest. Gasping, she stared at the pavement under her cheek. The bile rose in her throat and for a second she thought she might throw up.
She looked at the asphalt, seeing it close, its hard, black gravel, its tar. This is where duty takes you. Into the thick of it, for better or worse. She believed in duty, she believed in action, and yet—
Someone grabbed her arm, pulling her upright, dusting her off. The juice pumped in her veins, telling her she’d made the wrong decision, that she should get the hell out of here. Her ears felt like they had cotton stuffed in them. She shook her head to clear them and stood her ground as she tucked her shoulder-length brown hair back into its tight bun and stuck her cap back on her head.
No running. Never.
The firefighters were on their feet again, with helmets and air packs and fire extinguishers, rushing toward the door. They disappeared into the smoke. Fools, all of them. Brave fools. Had they seen the bodies, the charred bits of the bone and flesh she’d seen? Her heart rose into her throat as a flashback to Iraq swept across her mind, another blast, another fire, the shiver of danger, of fear. No, not now. There was time enough for that in dreams.
And so it begins. Cody’s tale of the lab explosion and her inner story of wartime that has left her reeling. They happen side-by-side and the beginning the novel reflects that.
PLAN X will be published on June 15. Sign up for the mailing list to keep up to date! Click here.
Last weekend I tried something new, a Re-Tweet Weekend. I asked my Twitter followers and Facebook friends, and LinkedIn Crime Fiction people, to send me their book links. Then Saturday and Sunday I re-tweeted them randomly and often.
@LiseMcClendon Really cool! Everyone should go over and look at this girl’s wallpaper. (Proud of myself–I know the lingo)
About twelve or fifteen authors played with me, from all my social networks. Not a huge response but that was probably good for the first go-round. (Luckily I didn’t have too many things going on!) The auto-scheduler on HootSuite was a big help. (My question though is how do you cancel an auto-scheduled tweet, or even find out if it’s scheduled and when?) The re-tweets continued until about Wednesday because the auto-scheduler figures out when is the best time for them.
Everybody got about five or six re-tweets over the weekend. The idea is have somebody else tweet your book links because tweeting about yourself is kind of … over. Really, people. Do your followers click on your links about your own books? And more importantly, do they buy books because you the author say they’re awesome?
Like most social marketing there’s a fine line between being excited about your book and just flogging the everloving hell out of it. The latest etiquette is not even re-tweet when somebody says something nice about your book (although I see that all the time.) Re-tweeting compliments is seen as just the same as complimenting yourself. Sadly I see this all as the advice my mother always gave me (and I totally hated): “Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.” Sigh.
Here was my advice to my own kids: “Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket.” (Totally old school, my mom and me.) The problem is with indie-published authors, they rarely have reviews to get the word out. Yes, sometimes you can use your Amazon and Nook reviews to promote your book, but those reviews, as we’ve heard, are not all that trusted. Independent reviewers like Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, BookList, and the like have a lot more credibility.
This is not to say you can’t tweet about your novels. You wouldn’t be on Twitter if you didn’t. But spreading the love around, re-tweeting other authors (I also re-tweeted people who hadn’t contacted me), and reading blogs and news and tweeting links to those if they’re interesting, is more friendly. I see people with hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter and they are posting links to their own website or books. More power to them, I guess. I’d love to know if that works for them. Does it work for you?
I’m planning on more Re-Tweet Weekends, hopefully one a month. Send me your book links in mid-May! Here’s my Twitter link: @LiseMcClendon