Monday, November 18, 2019

My First Bouchercon Panel

by Paula Gail Benson

Carol Puckett with her husband Jim
While there are many special things I'll remember about this year's 50th anniversary Bouchercon, celebrated in Dallas, Texas, one in particular will be that this year marked my first to moderate and serve on a panel at the world mystery conference. I'd already felt privileged to get to know and work with the organizers on the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction (more on that in my post tomorrow on Writers Who Kill). Thank you to Carol Puckett, local committee organizer, for not only collecting historical memorabilia from the past 50 Bouchercons as well as honoring Bill Crider, a beloved Texas writer and reviewer, but also for recognizing the interest in different lengths of mystery stories, novellas, and novels. Carol told me that some people asked about the number of panels devoted to short mystery fiction, but that she and the organizers had heard attendees ask about different story formats and responded to it.

I moderated a panel called "Does Length Matter?" While the subject may sound titillating (I warned audience members if they came to hear a discussion about measuring body parts, they might be disappointed to learn we would be talking about word count), it's actually one about which I often hear writers speculate. For example, some of the questions we considered were: (1) have readers' attention spans narrowed? (2) is it better to write two short novels in a year rather than one lengthy one? (3) can writing short stories between novels keep a reader interested in a series or characters? and (4) how do you know if an idea is better suited for a novel or short story?

Sandy Steen, Mary Stojak, Becki Willis, Bess Carnan, Mad Hildebrandt, Angela Zeman, me, and Rhonda Gilliland
(Photo by Rhonda's husband Fr. Basil Gilliland)
We had a terrific group of panelists, some novelists, some short story authors, and some who had written both. Now that I've met them in person, I know I have many titles to add to my reading list (and I would encourage you all to check out their work).

Our two Texans were Sandy Steen and Becki Willis, both novelists. They each have written in several genres. Becki has independently published several series.

Mad Hildebrandt has written cozy mysteries, humorous romantic suspense, and dark gritty mysteries. She told us that she often writes a novel straight through in seventy-two hours, a rigorous stretch to produce the draft, but one that she found to work best for her. Angela Zeman also has written in diverse genres and has one character, Mrs. Risk, who started out in short stories before appearing in a novel. Mary Stojak has a solid reputation for writing short stories and is working on a novel.

Bess Carnan, this year's winner of the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grants Program for Unpublished Writers, said that her first drafts are short, then she lengthens them through rewrites. Rhonda Gilliland, who I'd served with on a panel before at Killer Nashville, has written stories as well as served as an editor for a successful series of mystery culinary anthologies.

Many thanks to Carol Puckett and the 2019 Bouchercon organizers for the opportunity to talk about story formats and to get to know these fine writers better.

(Photo by Rhonda's husband Fr. Basil Gilliland)
Do you prefer short stories or novels? 

Friday, November 15, 2019

Meet The Queen of Christmas

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a secret project – a Christmas short story called "The Queen of Christmas."

I’m a huge fan of short stories at this busy time of the year. What better to read when there are so many demands on our time but also an increased need to recharge our batteries by taking a few moments to enjoy some fun holiday reading? 

Several readers have asked me to do a holiday story with the characters from my Lobster Shack mystery series. I started wondering -- what do Allie, Aunt Gully, Verity, and all the other characters from the Lazy Mermaid lobster shack do at Christmas?

A visit to a holiday show house tour last December sparked ideas. A Christmas crazy friend of my mom has collected ornaments and decorations for decades. Over time, her single decorated tree became two trees, then three, and after several years this lady had a decorated tree for every room in her house and crowds clamoring to visit. Her Fantasy of Trees was born.

What if I moved this festival of trees to Mystic Bay? What if a desperate criminal was determined to cause holiday mischief instead of holiday merriment?

Writing a short story comes with challenges. The story has to be tighter. Every word has to work harder. Which characters will be in the story? How to keep the story to a length that is perfect to enjoy during the holiday crush?

I hope you’ll check out my new mystery short story, "The Queen of Christmas." I hope it will provide you with a fun escape from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. The story also includes a recipe for hot toddy, because what’s nicer than curling up with a good story and a warm drink on a frosty winter night?

The story is available exclusively on Amazon for Kindle. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Review for Bethany Maine's The Second Shot by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Dear Reader,

Bethany sent me an advanced copy of her new book, The Second Shot, that released October 24th. The moment it arrived, I dove in and began reading. I had no idea what to expect. I was hooked from the first chapter.

October 14, 2019

Review for Bethany Maines, The Second Shot five stars out of five.

Bethany Maines has written many mysteries. This was my introduction to her work. Now that I’ve read The Second Shot, I’m excited to read more of her mysteries. I have her book, Bulletproof Mascara on my kindle. It’s next on my reading list.

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but Bethany Maines isn’t afraid to get dirty. She writes some amazing, sexy love scenes. I loved the lust and romance. It was lusty but had love at the heart of it. It’s a love story between Max, the U.S. Marshal, and Dominque, the femme du monde. They reminded me of the characters in the tv series, Moonlighting, of the late 80’s where Bruce Willis and Cybil Shephard are opposites who fight and argue but are drawn to one another by sexual attraction. Max and Dominique are enemies who end up as lovers. The result is a delicious, sexy, battle of wits and very entertaining.

Bethany’s characters, all of them, are smart and funny. The sarcasm in the Deveraux clan dynamics brings a reality to the family dysfunction. And the subtle politics of the story remind the reader of actual events of today’s leaders.

The story opens with a memory of the main characters’ first meeting and the book ends with their happily ever after. A love story that made me happy.

“Maxwell Ames looked across the room at Dominique Deveraux and felt himself physically flinch at a memory-driven whip of embarrassment.” Excerpt From: Bethany Maines. The Second Shot.

“Dominique had to physically restrain herself from blurting out that she loved him and his beautiful, thoughtful brain. They were two whole weeks into dating. The L word was the kind of thing that sent people running. And seriously, she shouldn’t be saying that. It was only two weeks! Even if she kind of, seriously, thought that she meant it.” Excerpt From: Bethany Maines. “The Second Shot.”

I enjoy love stories, but this is a mystery and the suspense and thrilling who dunnit scenes had me up all night reading until I finished the book. It was a full moon. I have difficulty sleeping during full moons. I usually sit up writing all night. It’s something uncontrollable and brought on by astronomical laws of magnetism, or lunar tides, or whatever. But I didn’t want to write. I wanted to read.

I enjoyed the sex scenes more than I expected (blush) but the fact that these two main characters were falling in love had a huge part of my interest in their coitus. That and the fact that interruptions kept them from fulfilling their desires. It was suspense in the bedroom and in the sinister scenes of being ambushed, shot at, tackled, wrestled, beaten, and ran over by vehicles.

The ending left me wanting to find out more about what happens next to these characters. Bethany carefully teases with just enough information to drive her readers to the next chapter and the sequel.

Bethany Maines, new favorite author of mine, and someone I highly recommend to anyone interested in reading a smart, sexy, witty book on mystery, romance, and stilettos.

Some of Bethany Maine’s novels.

Carrie Mae Mysteries

Bulletproof Mascara from (#1)

Compact with the Devil (#2)

Supporting the Girls: A Carrie Mae Mini-Mystery

Power of Attorney: A Carrie Mae Mini-Mystery

High-Caliber Concealer (#3)

Glossed Cause (#4)

San Juan Islands Murder Mysteries

An Unseen Current

Against the Undertow

An Unfamiliar Sea

Shark Santoyo Crime Series

Shark’s Instinct

Shark’s Bite

Shark’s Hunt

Stand Alone Novels

Wild Waters

Tales from the City of Destiny

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


by Bethany Maines

Ahhhhhh... The soothing feeling of not being in a mad marketing scramble.  

Being in a post-book release time frame is both relaxing and a little bit of a let-down.  The majority of sales happen around the book release week and after that, there’s just general marketing and gulp, waiting for reviews to come in. Reviews, believe it or not, are quite hard to come by.  In a world where literally every service seems to ask for you to thumbs up, rate, review, rave about, the good old fashioned recommendation of a book has become both more important and yet, even harder to get.

Readers get intimidated by the process – do I need to write a book report? Ahhhhhh!!!!  The answer to that one is no.  Short reviews are frequently the best.  For example, here’s the latest review for The Second Shot

“A drunken mistake in college cost U.S. Marshal Maxwell Ames the love of Dominique Deveraux and six years later, he’s determined to fix the slip-up. But there’s just one tiny problem. When I started reading I couldn't put it down. Bethany Maines is magnificent and amazing writer. I cannot wait to read more of her books. Keep up the great work. You should definitely read this book. Can't wait for the next book.”

Now obviously any review that calls me an amazing writer is going to be tops with me, but beyond that, the reviewer did the one thing that is required in a review – said what she liked. Then she gave it a rating and moved on with life. No synopsis, spoilers, no over thinking or hard work.  Read the book, reacted, bam, done.

Then readers think – does it really matter if I leave a review?  Short answer, yes, it really, really does.  Even on older books?  YES!!  There are some marketing options that I can only get if I have enough reviews or a high enough rating.  Your kind words really matter.  And of course, saying I’m an awesome writer is the kind of thing that keeps me going when some meanie leaves me a two star review. (It happens to everyone, we are breathing, we are breathing, and letting it go…)

So to anyone who has left a book review, even if it wasn’t for one of my books, I say thank you.  And if you’d like to give a writer a gift… may I suggest leaving a review on Amazon, BookBub, or Goodreads.


Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.