On A Nashville Memory

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Nine Mile Hill, so creatively named because it was exactly nine miles from the heart of downtown Nashville, the Cumberland River, afforded Taylor a lovely panoramic view of the city. The sun was setting behind her, catching the reflection off the Lifeway warehouse. The skyscrapers and the Capitol building that made up Nashville’s skyline were bathed in a rosy copper reflective glow, shimmering like an urban mirage. Taylor had lived in Nashville her entire life, but had never seen this vision. It was gorgeous and filled her, making her feel whole and drowsy. She was tempted to pull over and watch until it disappeared, but the sun did the trick for her, shifting slightly in its evening zenith. The mirage faded, and the downtown Taylor knew reappeared.
— Excerpt From: J.T. Ellison. “Judas Kiss.”


Today marks the end of an era for Nashville. The Lifeway complex was demolished this morning to make way for the new area of town that will be called Nashville Yards. Change is inevitable, especially in a city like ours, that’s growing faster than many of us can keep up with, but it’s always hard to see icons disappear.

Watching this piece of Nashville history implode into dust, I reminisced about a phenomenon few have had a chance to see — and now, never will again — the Lifeway henge. It happened so quickly I wasn't even able to take a photograph. It was an experience that made it into the Taylor novel I was writing at the moment. I’m so glad to have seen it, and to have recorded it for posterity in Judas Kiss. And now it fades into the fabric of our ever-changing city. 

Sunday Smatterings

Happy Sunday, and SURPRISE! It's me, The Kerr! 

While J.T. is frolicking in snowy Colorado, I thought I'd join the rest of us whose faces melted off this week (why is it so hot in May!?) and talk about fun things I saw online. 

Guys, I'm not ready for another Tennessee summer. To be honest, I never am. Never been to the South? Everything they say about the humidity is true. Oh, the humidity!

This is how I plan to combat the heat June–October (because let's be honest, the temps stay sky high until Halloween).

oh, the humidity!

All right, all right, you came here for links. And links you shall get.

Many things captured my interest last week, so instead of my usual format, I'm piggybacking on J.T.'s instead. Because she is a smart lady.

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2017 Summer Reading Guide. The forecast for good books this summer? Bright and sunny. (Place a ✔︎ by your Corny Joke of the Day)

Meet Mr. Frank, Nashville's 91-Year-Old Substitute Teacher. A WWII veteran subbing in public schools? I'd call that inspiring. You should read why he does it.

Shipt. You're an introvert's dream. And I love you.

Amazon Prime Now. I love you, too. Even though you introduced me to an unhealthy obsession with these maple pecans, and I can't find them anywhere else.

RIP, Chris Cornell. Thanks for producing most of my high school soundtrack.

The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir. I'm a sucker for a good memoir, and this one didn't disappoint. I read this book in fifteen hours—only breaking for sleep and work. It's that riveting.

Um. American Idol is coming back. But it won't be on Fox...

2017 Netflix Premiere Schedule. Because summer TV shows are important. 

And closer to home:

Bargains! There are still a couple of contests up on the Bargains page (including a 200-copy galley giveaway for LIE TO ME). Check 'em out!

Grab a Three-Chapter Excerpt of LIE TO ME! What!? Yes. You're going to hate me because you'll want to read more. But trust me, friends—this book is worth the wait. 

Folks, that's all I have for you. Stay cool, drink lots of water (and make sure your pets do, too), eat an ice cream sandwich, and we'll chat again soon!

Amy/The Kerr

4.14.16 - On Writer Tribes and Indie Bookstore Love

This was originally published in SIBA's Lady Banks newsletter. I thought you guys might enjoy it, too.


A few nights ago, I attended a signing at the wonderful Parnassus Books in Nashville.

The signing author was Ariel Lawhon, who was launching her brilliant story chronicling the doomed flight of the Hindenburg, FLIGHT OF DREAMS. As Ariel and I hugged and kissed hello, bookseller extraordinaire Bill Long-Innes smiled benevolently and asked, “Do you guys have a writer tribe? It seems like Nashville authors really make an effort to support one another. I wonder if any other cities have such a tight knit group?”

Ariel and I nodded.

Because we do have a tribe here in Nashville.

Our literary community, dubbed the Nashville Literati, is tight. There are cliques within it—young adult writers in the SCBWI, crime fiction in Sisters in Crime, romance writers in MCWR, literary authors big with Salon 615 and Humanities Tennessee and The Porch Writers’ Collective.

But when it comes to supporting another author, we cross genres like a boss.

We lunch together. We attend each other’s signings. We hang out in East Nashville at East Side Storytellin’. We pull together all our writing buddies when a writer friend comes to town. We even go on writing retreats together.

And now one constant we all have in common is our indie store, Parnassus.

I think the store’s staff has made it such a welcoming, open place for writers of all genres, of all stripes, that we can’t help but want to gather there.  

When our beloved former indie, Davis-Kidd, closed its doors in 2010 (and Parnassus didn’t yet exist), it suddenly became much harder to get everyone together. We have the annual Southern Festival of Books, which is always well-represented with local authors. We did lunches and cocktails, drove out to other counties to attend signings.

But not having an indie store that represented and celebrated all the writers in town was hard. A town without an indie store is a sad one indeed.

Davis-Kidd had a long history in this town. As a matter of fact, it was one of the reasons I was okay with moving here. When my then boyfriend (now husband) brought me to Nashville in 1993 to meet his parents, he drove me around, and our last stop was Davis-Kidd. “See?” he said. “This is the best bookstore in town. You’ll have plenty to read if we ever move here.”

(I’m not sure if I was more entranced by the idea of books—books!—or the fact that my boyfriend had just hinted strongly he wanted a long future with me.) 

Davis-Kidd was everything you could ask for in a bookstore: great staff, great events, a huge, diverse collection of titles. I attended my very first author signing there (John Connolly! My writing hero!). At that signing, I met a woman who became my other mother, who mentored me through years of writing, getting an agent, getting a deal. I did one of my first signings at David-Kidd. I hit my first bestseller list while I was launching my fourth book there. I attended Sisters in Crime meetings there. I wept with everyone else when it closed.

To have an indie in our midst again is incredible.

It’s been very fun to watch Parnassus take hold in our community, to see stories being made there. The Nashville Literati grows stronger day-by-day, with new writers coming up to join the established ones. And Parnassus is our hub. Several writers are booksellers there (And one co-owns it. You might have heard of her . . . her name is Ann.). This lends a verisimilitude unmatched anywhere else.

Yes, Nashville has a writer tribe, just as strong as Chicago, New York, and L.A.

And thanks to our favorite indie, we have a place to call our own, too.

2.18.16 - 7 Minutes With... C.J. Redwine

C.J. Redwine is a rather amazing writer. She’s a rather amazing woman, actually. As a huge force on the Nashville YA-writer scene, she juggles some hefty deadlines with her multitude of kids, biological and adopted from foreign countries. Her writing is fierce, fantasy-laden, and tough (I mean, really, how can you not a love a trilogy named Defiance?). C.J. conducted an interview with me several years ago, which was possible the most fun I’ve ever had answering questions – from Captain Jack Sparrow, of course. She’s proof you can have it all – and I predict more great things to come. Here’s C.J.! 


Set your music to shuffle and hit play. What’s the first song that comes up?
“I Dare You” by Shinedown

Now that we’ve set the mood, what are you working on today?
I’m working on the next book in the Ravenspire series. It’s due this coming Monday so it’s basically all I’m doing with my life right now.

What’s your latest book about?
THE SHADOW QUEEN is a dark epic fantasy inspired by the Snow White fairy tale. It’s the story of a fugitive princess who has become a fierce warrior, a wicked queen who is the most powerful sorcerer the kingdom has ever seen, and a desperate dragon shape-shifter prince from a neighboring kingdom who makes a deal to become the queen’s huntsman to save his people from destruction.

Where do you write, and what tools do you use?
I write either at my desk in my office or at the little back corner table at the coffee shop in my local bookstore. I use a notebook and Pilot gel pens for plotting, world building, character development, and fix-it notes. I use my laptop for everything else. And I always use a playlist developed specifically for that one story so that as soon as I hear those songs in that order, I’m instantly transported to the story’s world.

What was your favorite book as a child?
My boxed set of The Chronicles of Narnia. I still have that set. It’s in my daughter’s room now. And it’s decorated with puffy rainbow stickers because apparently 9-year-old C.J. thought that was EPIC.

What’s your secret talent?
I can snort just about anything up my nose on accident. Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of recent offenders: Chicken nuggets (this is what death feels like), Diet Coke (sinus douche!), a tiny shard of a tortilla chip that defied gravity and leaped from my lips straight up my nose (moment of silence for his courage), bread pudding (I was really worried the raisins were going to be permanently lodged …), and wasabi (spontaneous combustion starts in the sinus cavity, I always say).

What book are you reading now?
I don’t read while I’m heavily drafting, but my reward for finishing this book is Renee Ahdieh’s THE WRATH AND THE DAWN.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was in second grade and was given an assignment to write a 3-paragraph story. I turned in 4 pages (with illustrations!) and never looked back. Story-telling is how I translate my experiences.

Who is your writing idol? Have you met him/her? If so, did you completely nerd out or keep your cool?
J.K. Rowling! I haven’t met her, and I love that you actually think I have a cool to keep. Awkward fangirling all the way, baby!

What’s your favorite bit of writing advice?
Take risks!

What do you do if the words aren’t flowing?
Stop and do something mostly mindless so I can let the story play around in my head until the solution shows up. By mostly mindless, I mean take a walk or a drive or … I was going to say do housework, but let’s not get crazy.

Are you creatively satisfied?
Yes, while at the same time always striving for more. At least once a week, I wish I could be one of those people you hear about sometimes that can sleep maybe 3 hours a night and they’re fine. Martha Stewart is like that. Of course that led her to believe she should do things like make her own mirrors out of little sheets of silver that you can only find from like … three vendors in the entire country, so … maybe that’s not such a great idea.

What would you like to be remembered for?
For loving people well.

Alright, now for the really important questions:

Beach or mountains? Beach! (But with mountains and cliffs)
Coffee or tea? Peach tea
Skydive or bungee jump? Oh dear Lord, my stomach just plummeted. Nope. ALL THE NOPE.
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate. If you’re going to ingest the calories, you might as well go for broke.
Winter or summer? Autumn!
Cats or dogs? Cats, though I love dogs too.
Pens or pencils? Pens! Pilot gel pens in a rainbow of color options, to be specific.
Truth or dare? Truth
Print or ebook? Print, though ebooks for trips are the best thing since pie.



C.J. Redwine loves fairy tales, Harry Potter, and Sherlock. She is the author of the Defiance trilogy, a post-apocalyptic fantasy from Balzer + Bray. C.J. lives in Nashville with her husband and children. If the novel writing gig ever falls through, she’ll join the Avengers and wear a cape to work every day. To learn more about C.J., visit her website at www.cjredwine.com

Think you'd like THE SHADOW QUEEN? Learn more here!

One Of The Best Things About Nashville...

One of this big advantages of living in Nashville is the music. Last night, I had the pleasure of attending an awesome bi-monthly event called EAST SIDE STORYTELLIN’, which is put together by the indomitable Chuck Beard of the very cool East Nashville shop East Side Story. Every event features an author, and a musician. Words, and lyrics. What a beautiful combination.

By the way, Chuck’s bookstore is unique - populated with books by Tennessee authors only. It is a true labor of love, and I can’t recommend buying from him highly enough. Not only is it a cool bookstore, it’s filled with art and love. If you’re in Nashville, stop by. If you’re outside of Nashville - give Chuck a call. He can hook you up with just the right book. Because Nashville - heck, all of Tennessee - is FULL of brilliant writers. We’ve undergone quite the literary renaissance lately, and Chuck has all of us there.

So back to last night - a great match up of words and lyrics. The author was Alecia Whitaker, the music by Alissa Moreno. These two have been teamed together for Alecia’s book, WILDFLOWER, the story of a young singer who’s gotten her big break, and Alissa sang the breakout song that’s featured in the book. There’s even a talent search underway for the next big star, so if you know a great teen signer, send them here. The book itself is the brainchild of Kathryn Williams, developmental editor of Aerial. This is a great example of Nashville teamwork. 

And I officially have a crush on Alissa Moreno. What a voice! You know how some songs, some people, just strike you? Well, you’ve heard her before, too, though you may not know it. She’s one of those amazingly talented singer/songwriters who populate this town. I bought one of her albums, and I’m stoked to go see her around town.

And since this has turned into a linkfest instead of my initial premise, I’ll get to it now. I am not a signer. I have no discernible musical talent. I played a bunch of instruments in school — clarinet, mostly, but sax and flute and drums and guitar, too — but they didn’t speak to me like words, and I had to choose between band and G&T classes, and I chose the latter. As such, I am always fascinated by people who have both words and melody in their heads. It seems such an ethereal gift, less workmanlike, more tangible than words alone. I know I can turn a phrase, but do I give people goosebumps and make tears come to their eyes? 

That’s how I felt last night. That overwhelming spark that sends tingles throughout your body when you hear just the right voice, just the right note, just the right words. I didn’t want the evening to end.

Do check out these extremely talented women, and give Chuck a whirl — you won’t be disappointed.

Have you been moved by anything or anyone lately?