A Wicked Welcome to Diane Vallere!

by Julie, loving 50 degree weather in Somerville

I want to offer a wicked welcome to Diane Vallere. Diane’s most recent book, A Disguise to Die For, the first in her Costume Shop Mystery series, debuted February 2. This is Diane’s fourth series. But, as she talks about in this post, that wasn’t always a given.


Your Toughest Opponent

Vallere, DisguiseToDieFor_coverIt might be odd for a former fashion buyer turned mystery writer to base a blog post about a Rocky movie. I’m not a boxing fan, and have probably never seen a fight that wasn’t part of the movie franchise. But whether it’s because I’m from a town near Philly or because more than once in my life I’ve heard the phrase, “you can’t do that,” I connect very strongly with the character.

There is a scene in the current movie Creed where Rocky and Adonis face a mirror. “See this guy here?” says Rocky, gesturing to Adonis’ own reflection. “That’s the toughest opponent you’re ever gonna have to face. I believe that’s true in the ring, and I believe that’s true in life.” And it appears to be a pretty true about publishing, too. Because while every book brings its own unique joy—the culmination of weeks, months, years of sitting at the desk with fingers on the keyboard, imagining a story and finding a way to capture it—every book also brings risk. It brings an opportunity to be criticized, to be told we’re no good. It brings a voice to the doubts that we relegate to the back of our minds, the same voice that asks, Why do you think you can do this? Nobody else does.

Ten years after I first started writing, I published my first book. My personal journey had changed a lot in those ten years: divorce after thirteen years of marriage, a move from Texas to California, losing the companionship of the cat I’d adopted right after college, and willingly giving up my corporate career. Writing had become a constant through that tumultuous time and after years spent revising manuscripts and querying agents, I chose a different path and considered putting the book out myself. The decision felt right. I would be moving forward, not standing still.

And then, this happened:

Vallere’s decades of experience in the fashion industry don’t quite translate into entertaining storytelling in this middling cozy. Samantha Kidd takes a professional gamble—leaving her secure job as senior buyer of ladies’ designer shoes in New York City to become the trend specialist at Traveda—a family owned company in her hometown of Ribbon, Pa. But the first day at her new job couldn’t be worse: she finds her fashion director boss, Patrick, dead in an elevator, and after the EMTs arrive to transport the corpse, the body vanishes. With the only person able to verify her employer dead, and no actual body to examine, the police are naturally skeptical of her story. Determined to restore her reputation, Kidd sets about playing detective. Patrick’s scheduled involvement in an upcoming design competition—he was to be one of the judges—is one of several motives Kidd investigates. Her bravado (“Some crazy killer out there was going about to learn one thing. You don’t mess with the Kidd”) comes across as silly rather than convincing, and the intelligence Kidd must have had to succeed in her field is sadly absent in her avocation as amateur sleuth. © Copyright Pwxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Not gonna lie. That’s not what I’d hoped for from my first Publisher’s Weekly review. That review was like a punch to the gut in round one of a fight where I was in over my head. It told me that everything I’d done up to that point—the writing classes, the research, the revisions, and the editing—hadn’t been enough. If I’d listened to that review, I would have hung up my gloves and quit.

But here’s the thing: after all that, I didn’t quit. And the real kicker? Publishing that book got my foot into the door of the industry and led me to today where I’m writing four series for three different publishers and have recently celebrated my eleventh book’s release.

That’s the nature of the journey. Every time a book comes out, we, as the authors, open ourselves up to criticism. It takes courage and confidence and thick skin. But most of all, it takes the ability to look at our book and believe in it. To know that we are our own toughest critic; we are the opponent. We can halt our own advancement by playing it safe and keeping our manuscripts on our computers, unread. Or we can get out of our own way and keep moving forward despite what anybody says because we each control our future.

And to paraphrase Rocky Balboa, I think that’s true about writing, and I think it’s true about life.

Readers: What area of life have you opposed yourself in? How did it work out? Questions for Diane about her rocky path to publication and her recent successes?

3 croppedAfter a career in retail, Diane Vallere traded fashion accessories for accessories to murder. A DISGUISE TO DIE FOR is the first in her new Costume Shop Mystery Series. Diane also writes the Madison Night, Style & Error, and Lefty-Nominated Material Witness Mysteries. She is also the Vice President of Sisters in Crime. She started her own detective agency at age ten and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since.
ABOUT A Disguise to Die For: 
No sooner does former magician’s assistant Margo Tamblyn return home to Proper City, Nevada, to run Disguise DeLimit, her family’s costume shop, than she gets her first big order. Wealthy nuisance Blitz Manners needs forty costumes for a detective-themed birthday bash. As for Blitz himself, his Sherlock Holmes is to die for—literally—when, in the middle of the festivities, Margo’s friend and party planner Ebony Welles is caught brandishing a carving knife over a very dead Blitz.For Margo, clearing Ebony’s name is anything but elementary, especially after Ebony flees town. Now Margo is left to play real-life detective in a town full of masked motives, cloaked secrets, and veiled vendettas. But as she soon learns, even a killer disguise can’t hide a murderer in plain sight for long.

39 Thoughts

  1. Diane, so nice to have you join the Wickeds today! You kept going and believed in yourself, and you’re a star example of making that work. Did you continue that first series, or let it go fallow?

    1. Hi Edith, Thanks for the welcome! I think it’s so important to believe in yourself, especially with creative projects. I do still write that series and it remains one of my favorites.

  2. Great to see you here! (And I liked that first book–I probably still have it, if only I could find it.)

    If you’ve been writing for years, you’ve probably got a stack, virtual or real, of earlier works. It’s a good exercise to take a look at some of your first efforts and realize how far you’ve come. And you’re right–never give up. Keep learning, and keep pushing.

    1. Thank you, Sheila! Yes, like most writers, I have a stack of virtual works and I agree, it’s good to revisit them occasionally. I’m always surprised at how my voice is there even in my writing attempts from high school. And yes, never give up!

  3. Hi, Diane! I love this line from your post: imagining a story and finding a way to capture it. I have a story rolling around in my head that I can’t quite capture — I guess it’s the same as anything just sit down and do it. I read Suede to Rest recently and loved Poly!

    1. Thank you, Sherry! I seem to always have snippets of something rolling around in my head. Some days I can capture it (and there better be a notebook within reach!) and some days it rolls right back into a corner and hides.

      I’m glad you loved Poly!

  4. Diane, I salute you for sharing that review and for sticking with your journey despite the bumps. You can be held up as a shining example of perseverance and belief in yourself. (And I love Samantha!)

    1. Great to see you here, Ramona! If sharing my bad review can help another writer face their own and keep going, then I’m glad. The thing about these is, they’re out there. I can’t hide it or make it go away. So why not own it and say, that happened and the world didn’t end. Right? (and thank you for loving Samantha!)

    1. Thank you, Liz! Being called an inspiration is the greatest compliment ever! (and BTW, re yesterday’s obsession post, I love Karen Rauch Carter’s book MOVE YOUR STUFF, CHANGE YOUR LIFE. I consult probably once a month and gift it whenever possible!)

  5. Hi Diane–thank you so much for joining the Wickeds today. I agree with you that resilience is THE most important trait for a writer. Once you put your work out there, it is subject to each reader’s interpretation. No one is “wrong” about the book, but you have to believe in the integrity of what you have done.

    1. Hi Barbara-yes, yes, yes! That’s the hardest part, isn’t it? Harder than making the time to write and getting through revisions. It’s knowing that at one point, the book will go from being our own private project to something that can be judged. You HAVE to believe in yourself. It’s the only shield you have against criticism.

  6. I’m certainly glad you kept going. The books I’ve read have been wonderful, and the rest are on my TBR mountain, honest.

    1. Thank you, Mark. The way I see it is, we all have to start somewhere. Unless we never start, and that’s a bigger tragedy than a bad review, right?

      Thanks for the compliment!

  7. Great thought provoking post. Diane, just remember that every book is not for every reader. Readers have diverse tastes and interests. I have found many times I absolutely hated that books others liked, and especially books that won specific awards (I won’t disclose those specific awards here). That diversity of reading tastes allows everyone to find a book, no matter their individual preferences. If no one posts a “bad” review of your book that means very few people are reading it. After all, even the president of the United States has a fluctuating “approval” rating. Write on!! (tell bear Hi from me)

    1. I absolutely agree. I think the key is to not look externally for validation, but instead to find a way to be secure in what I’m writing. It is very hard to get down about one review, but reviews should not be the reason we write.

  8. First of all, I’m impressed that your first book got a review in Publisher’s Weekly. Second, the very fact that you had a published book out there to be reviewed is spectacular! Perseverance is the magic behind success. A great post, Diane! PS I’m a big fan of the Rocky movies 🙂

  9. Oh phooey on PW! There are people who don’t read reviews, but not many. It would be easier that way, though! All you can do it keep going or quit. Glad you kept going. Great post–thanks Wickeds and Diane!

    1. Ha! A pox on them! I can live with it, because it reminds me that the road we want to be on isn’t always smooth, and that makes every little success feel more special.

  10. Gosh, how did you know I needed to read this post right now? 😉

    Great insight!

  11. As always, you inspire me! (Except to see a Rocky movie. N.I.) Glad for all of our sakes that you kept going and didn’t let that dumb review get you down.

    1. Thanks, Ellen!

      P.S.:Say what you want about the sequels, but that first movie remains a masterpiece. (and as a series writer, I totally get the desire to revisit a beloved character again and again and again. Samantha will be solving crimes while using her walker to get around town!)

  12. I have no idea why some idiot would give you a bad review unless that person got up on the wrong side of the bed or just decided to be nasty because he/she was mad at the world. Your books are wonderful. Don’t let one idiot get you down. Keeps writing.

  13. Wonderful post, Diane! And something we can all relate to. And yes, amazing to even get a review from PW. My very first Amazon review was from a woman named Debbie in Arkansas who gave the book one star and said she liked it till the murder happened. I really had to laugh. Soldier on! You’re doing great!

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