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  • Writer's pictureCheryl A. Head

Time's Undoing a Novel: A Year in Review

Updated: Jan 17

2023. For me, a year to remember with wonder and gratitude.

* as of 12/15/23

The year my very personal novel-a fictionalized homage to the life of my grandfather-was released by a Big 5 publisher.


I'd begun writing the story in 2020 fueled by anger over the murder of George Floyd. I completed the manuscript in 2021 and by the end of the year I had a deal with Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. A shout out to my wonderful agent, Lori Galvin of Aevitas Creative, is very appropriate here. The book would not be published until more than a year after I signed the contract. That's how scheduling is in the mainstream publishing world. The wait was grueling, but there was still work to be done.


For several months my brilliant editor, Lindsey Rose, and I toiled over several rounds of edits. The book cover design began, copyediting was completed, and a publicity and marketing campaign was planned. The publisher sent out ARCs (advance reader copies) to booksellers, librarians, authors and we got blurbs from an amazing array of award-winning, and best-selling writers.


In retrospect, I am so grateful to have had that pre-pub time to process the journey, hone the writing, and prepare for the whirlwind year that was to come.


JANUARY/FEBRUARY

In the weeks before publication, I did a slew of interviews with book reviewers, radio hosts, librarians, bloggers and podcasters, and organized myself for a 5-city book tour. When my publishing day arrived (2.28.23), I was giddy with excitement, and already practiced at talking about Time's Undoing. The New. Now. Next. zeitgeist of book promotion was underway.


My first event was in St. Petersburg, Florida where I have family and friends. Writer, teacher, and publisher extraordinaire, Sheree Greer, displayed her considerable interviewing talents as we chatted and then engaged with a full room of readers (and a number of writers) at Tombolo Books. A couple of family members were in the audience (shout out to Robert and Janet) as well as long-time friends of my 96-year old mother who is a character in Time's Undoing (the story is about the murder of her father in 1929 and the first chapter of the book is set in St. Pete). It was a wonderful day, and place, to launch the book on its official pub date.



MARCH

Then it was back to my hometown, Washington, DC for an event at the venerable indie bookstore, Politics and Prose.


with Karen Tramontano

My friend, Karen Tramontano, one of DC's movers and shakers, kindly agreed to interview me. I read a bit from Time's Undoing and followed Karen's lead in the discussion. We had splendid questions from the SRO crowd, and I experienced another awesome book-signing line.


with Janet Jakobsen

The next day I headed to Brooklyn, NYC where the staff at Books are Magic staged a conversation with Barnard College Professor, author, and friend, Janet Jakobsen who delved deeply into the themes and impact of Time's Undoing. An attentive audience (again with a few family members) asked questions and bought books during that lovely event on a rainy night in Brooklyn. The full interview is available on Youtube, here.



The following week, I was in Houston, Texas for the hospitality of indie bookstore, Kindred Stories. Celebrated writer, and poet, Jennifer Maritza McCauley (left) connected with me and the audience in a marvelous pastiche of questions (poets know how to do that). Experiences Curator, Chanecka Williams (right), was gracious and knowledgeable.



I also visited with a former colleague of my public broadcasting days who owns a gorgeous art gallery. If you're ever in Houston, I highly recommend the Gite Gallery.


Next stop, two weeks later, was a return to the awesome, Saints and Sinners Literary Festival held in conjunction with the Tennessee Williams Festival in, where else, New Orleans! It was a short visit, but so nice to reconnect with author friends and colleagues, and converse with other writers, including superstar crime-fiction author, S. A. Cosby ( second from right) who provided a stunning blurb for Time's Undoing.


APRIL

Detroit Free Press 4/30/23 Cover Story
Lindsey Rose, me, Sarah Thegeby

I took the train to NYC for a writing/research trip in early April, had a bit of rest and relaxation which included two Broadway shows, and had lunch with my editor and publicist.


I returned to DC just in time for an in-person appearance with the Good Book Book Club, and a comprehensive interview about Time's Undoing with the Detroit Free Press.


There were more podcast interviews the following week. Mid-month I returned to NYC to attend the Edgar Awards (I'd been a judge) and to cheer on the founders of Crime Writers of Color (I'm a proud member) who received the coveted Raven Award conferred by Mystery Writers of America (MWA).


MAY

May included a mix of interviews, podcasts, and a book conference. The Washington Writers Conference is held annually in Bethesda, MD. I introduced Time's Undoing on a panel about historical fiction, and participated in a discussion about why book banning is anathema to a democratic society. The keynote speaker was marvelous historical fiction author, Dolen Perkins (middle) shown here with me, and fellow DC writer, Melanie Hatter.

I had these bookmarks made especially for this conference, and I now distribute them at every book appearance.


JUNE

It was a treat to be invited to the Maine Crime Wave held in Portland, ME in June. My friend, and talented author, Brenda Buchanan was a gracious host (shout out to Diane), and I got to hang with some very cool writers and readers.



I was pleased to be invited by my local public radio station, WAMU, and host Michael King, to discuss Time's Undoing for the station's Weekend Edition audience (shout out to Kojo Nnamdi).


I headed back to St. Pete to be the guest of the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America. It was a unique, and fun setting: the Shuffleboard Clubhouse. I'd seen the building dozens of times but had never been inside. My conversation partner, JD Allen, and local author, Cheryl Hollon, were terrific hosts.


I closed out June with a reading at Noir @the Bar in the Petworth area of DC, hosted by local writer, and friend, Ed Aymar. These events with a mix of other writers and readers are always a lot of fun.


JULY

In mid July, it was back to Maine for R&R, and a book event at the very beautiful Friend Memorial Library in Brooklin where an enthusiastic room of Mainers listened to me and pal, Brenda Buchanan, talk about our books.



I signed a lot of copies of Time's Undoing for readers (Thank you Leaf & Ann), we took great photos, and I had the honor and opportunity to chat with some of my favorite people--librarians. God bless them.


AUGUST

I returned from Maine ready for a busy month. First a flight to Birmingham, Alabama for a presentation at the public library. The Birmingham Central Library is featured prominently in the novel. With thanks to Librarian, Weston Flippo (lower right).



Thank You Books indie bookstore handled book sales. And I had informative conversations with readers who had suggestions about where I might locate the gravesite of my grandfather (sadly we don't know where, or if, he was buried).


I returned to DC in time to be the interlocutor for friend, Naomi Hirahara, at East City Books on Capitol Hill. Naomi was touring with her riveting novel, Evergreen. The bookstore also featured Time's Undoing.



I was back on a plane to Jackson, MS the following week for the humongous Mississippi Book Festival on the grounds of the state capitol.



Six thousand visitors attend this annual event where the temperatures and enthusiasm are high. I participated in a well-attended panel discussion about historical fiction. I also met up with Oxford, MS friends for a wonderful dinner conversation about the new south (Thank you Charles and Marie). At the end of the month I was off to San Diego for the world's largest gathering of mystery/crime fiction authors and fans.


SEPTEMBER

The event is called Bouchercon, and this year's annual convention at the Marriott Marquis took place over the Labor Day weekend. I participated in two programs to chat about Time's Undoing with mystery fans. Two weeks later, at the Literary Hill Book Festival in DC's Capitol Hill neighborhood, I met readers, sold and signed books, and chatted about the identity themes in Time's Undoing.

Literary Hill panel moderated by Louis Bayard (center)

With another virtual book club appearance in between (thank you African American Community of Heritage Harbor), I traveled to Lewes, Delaware for the outstanding History Book Festival (HBF). In an SRO gathering in the Lewes History Museum, I chatted with Professor, Adenike Davidson, about Time's Undoing and fielded questions from a rapt audience.


Audience at History Book Festival

The signing line at HBF blew my mind (hats off to bookseller, Browseabout Books). Award-winning author, and friend, Sujata Massey (center), purchased a copy (do yourself a favor and check out Sujata's Perveen Mistry historical fiction series). Special shout outs to my volunteer wrangler, Jackie Lawson, who kept me on track, and on time, and to my pals from Virginia, DC and Wilmington (right) who traveled to Lewes to support me.


OCTOBER

I was grateful to have a couple of weeks to write in October. In mid month, I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee for the Southern Festival of Books. This was another outdoor book event in the city's beautiful Bicentennial Capitol Mall Park. I joined with best-selling authors, Sadeqa Johnson and Etaf Rum, for a very special conversation about women protagonists in an auditorium filled with nearly two-hundred readers.



The day before the festival I had dinner with a joyous group of Nashville-area women, members of the Clean Plate Book Club who had all read Time's Undoing, and cheered for it every time it appeared on the screen at the gorgeous Country Music Hall of Fame building.


I ended October with a conversation about Time's Undoing with gifted interviewer, and author, Sara DiVello for a Murder by the Book event. Murder By the Book is an indie bookstore in Houston specializing in murder/crime fiction titles. They do so many events for our community, and I do admire them.




NOVEMBER

Are you tired yet? I am. November is the month for giving thanks. And I was thankful to be invited to the Midwest Mystery Conference in Chicago to join a panel chat about historical fiction novels. I also had the honor of being a lunch speaker for the Chicago chapter of Sisters in Crime. I was very ably interviewed by the chapter president, Jen Collins Moore, in this sold out event.



Then, back to DC for another book club appearance--a virtual gathering. The African American Literary Guild has been reading and discussing books for 25 years. So I was excited to meet with such a devoted group of readers. They grilled me about Time's Undoing for forty minutes. It was an exhilarating conversation. They read the novel deeply. And gave both praise, and constructive criticism. I took it all in. A few days later organizer, Regina Romero, delivered a rum cake as a thank you. Needless to say, that book club immediately became my favorite.


DECEMBER


2023 is winding down and I'm refreshed, grateful, and working on the next book. The paperback of Time's Undoing will be released in late February 2024 and I'll be heading to Detroit in early March to discuss it at Detroit's Main Public Library. It will be a homecoming.


The library is located in my old stomping grounds. A 2-mile square area known as the Cultural Center where I was an undergraduate on the campus of Wayne State University; where I had my first public broadcasting job as a radio news reader; and where I held my first TV job at the public television station.


In those days I was a young writer, but I always dreamed of being an author-someone who wrote stories that might not otherwise be told. So, I'll celebrate the Time's Undoing paperback release in Detroit. Back to my past, and on to the future.



Special Thanks:

Lori Galvin, Lindsey Rose, Sarah Thegeby, Nicole Jarvis, Amanda Walker, Dutton Books, the Penguin Random House copyediting, design, and audiobooks team. Kellye Garrett, Yasmin Angoe, S. A. Cosby, Tracy Clark, Alex Segura, Abby Collette, Wanda Morris, Kristin Harmel, Kate Quinn, Jo Piazza and Christine Pride, Fiona Davis, Naomi Hirahara, and Eleanor Shearer for the generous book blurbs. Donna Seaman, BookList, Molly Odintz, CrimeReads, Oline Cogdill, Florida Sun Sentinel, Bolo Books, Kristopher Zgorski, Colette Bancroft, Dru Ann Love, Library Journal, Pam Stack, Carole Bell, Carol Ann Tack, Robert Justice, Michael King, Susan Larsen, Maine Public Radio, WAMU, Bethanne Patrick, Jenny Yacovisi, Paul Willis, Weston Flippo, Lori Radar-Day, Brenda Buchanan, Diane Kenty, Catherine Maiorisi, the Atlantic, Oprah Daily, Detroit Free Press, Tampa Bay Times, NPR, Alabama Public Radio, Criminal Element, Deep South Magazine, Writers Writing, Julie Hinds, Shiloh Eaton, Crime Writers of Color, Sisters in Crime, Bouchercon 2023, and Mystery Writers of America. Saints and Sinners Literary Festival/Tennessee Williams Festival, Washington Writers Conference, History Book Festival, Southern Festival of Books, Mississippi Book Festival, and Literary Hill Book Fest. Tombolo Books, Politics and Prose, East City Books, Kindred Reads, Thank You Books, Browseabout Books, Murder by the Book, Books are Magic, and Leaf & Anna. Sheree Greer, Karen Tramontano, Janet Jakobsen, Jennifer Maritza McCauley, and Adenike Davidson. Robert Rankin, Janet Rankin, Denise Alston, Doris Garner, Regina Romero, Sadeqa Johnson, Sherry Harris, Delia Pitts, Jan Gilbert, Kevin McCaffrey, Charles Warren, Marie Antoon, Sally Painter, Debra McDowell, Pearline Waldrop, AJ Head, Arli Christian, Kaare Christian, Robin Raskin, and last, but most importantly, Teresa Rankin.

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