Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Heading Off on a Vacation

When my sister and I were kids, our family always went on a summer vacation, even when you had to use gas rationing stamps to buy fuel. I remember wonderful camping trips to Yosemite back in the days when you could camp alongside the Merced River, watch the firefall, and go to the garbage dump and watch the bears eat.

During later years, we camped at Bass Lake, also right on the lake edge (something that's not allowed today) and took two boats, one to water ski behind, and an outboard that we kids could use to go exploring.

As a married adult, my husband and I did have lots of family vacations, always camping trips, and one great adventure where we tent camped with a VW bus clear across the U.S. and back, but that's another story.

For the 23 years we owned, ran and lived in a care home for 6 developmentally disabled women, we always went on a vacation with them, places like Disneyland and Universal Studios. When they went off to camp, we took a few days to ourselves to vacation, sometimes Las Vegas and also several short cruises to Mexico.

Lately, all of our vacations have been to wherever a mystery conference was happening and we've really seen a lot of the U.S. that way, many places we'd have never gone to if the destination didn't include a Bouchercon or Left Coast Crime.

In a week we're heading off on a real vacation though I must confess I'll be having two book events while we're gone. We'll be "camping" with our son and daughter-in-law in their motor home in Sedona AZ. We were there briefly a few years ago and vowed we'd come back. We're going to stay in the same campground we stayed in before, beautiful spot with a stream, swimming pool and lots of trees. But nothing compares to the beauty of Sedona with it's red rocks and contrasting green growth. We're planning on doing a lot of sight-seeing including a Jeep tour.

One afternoon, I'm giving a talk at the Sedona Library about online promotion, and the Saturday we're there I'll be at Kris and Joe Neri's Well Read Coyote bookstore talking about working with small publishers.

I always manage to do something "writerly" while I'm doing something fun like this.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com/

Monday, May 30, 2011

Lori's Book Sense

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Welcome to my first Lori's Book Sense post.  I would like to thank the wonderful women of The Stiletto Gang for asking me to join them here each month. I'm honored!!  Each month I'll share with you a few of my favorite reads from the previous month.  Since this is my first  month I'm going to post a few of my favorite all time reads. 

First I'd like to tell you a little bit about myself and how I got blogging.  For the past 14 years I've worked for my family business. I work with my father and two younger brothers. I have three beautiful nieces.  I just hit the big 4-0 and live with my Maltese puppy Sadie.

 I belonged to a book swapping site ~ www.paperbackswap.com. My friends started calling me “the book pimp” because my book recommendations would cause their wish lists to grow. Several of them started bugging me about doing a book blog. Eventually I gave in and it’s taken off.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would turn into the success it seems to have become. It actually boggles my mind at times.

Overkill by Joseph Teller (4th book in the Jaywalker series)

Harrison J. Walker—Jaywalker, to the world—is a frayed-at-the-edges defense attorney with a ninety-percent acquittal rate, thanks to an obsessive streak a mile wide. But winning this case will take more than just dedication.Seventeen-year-old Jeremy Estrada killed another boy after a fight over a girl: shot him point-blank between the eyes. No one disputes those facts. This kid is jammed up big-time, but almost unable to help himself. He's got the face of an angel but can hardly string together three words to explain what happened that day…yet he's determined to go to trial. All they've got is a "yesbut" defense, as in: "Did you kill him?" "Yes, but…" Jaywalker is accustomed to bending the rules—this case will stretch the law to the breaking point and beyond.

 Trust me, if I ever get into any sort of legal trouble Harrison J Walker (Jaywalker as he likes to be called) is the lawyer I’m going to call.  Overkill is the fourth in the Jaywalker series.  I stumbled on Mr. Teller’s first book a while back and was immediately taken in. Now I anxiously await each next book in the series! Jaywalker is dedicated, hard working, and loyal and determined to a fault. He goes after his cases with guns blaring. He will work himself to the bone, forsaking sleep and food if it means justice for his client.  Too often I find myself reading as fast as I can to find out just where he will take me, but then force myself to slow down so that I can savor every question, every thought, and every emotion. Overkill is a legal thriller on par with any John Grisham or Scott Turow I’ve read. You will marvel at his way with words, at his finesse in the courtroom and his skill when handling witnesses. You too will fall in love with Jaywalker.  

Motherhood is Murder by Diana Orgain

Nights out are hard to come by for new mommy Kate Connelly. So when Kate and her husband are invited to a dinner cruise hosted by her new mommy club, Roo & You, they jump at it. But when the president of the club takes a deadly spill, everyone becomes suspect-and Kate's on deck to solve the mystery.

I adore Kate. She’s funny, charming, goofy, determined, and lovable. She has a husband who adores her and supports her 100%. Her “to do” lists are hysterical – right down to making sure she stops at the library to pick up her copy of The Dummies Guide to Private Investigating. She is head over heels in love with her 7 week old daughter Laurie, but at times feels like she’s not a good enough mother – she doesn’t know if Laurie can hold her head up at a 45 degree angle while having tummy time, she didn’t sign her up for swim classes while she was still pregnant with her and she doesn’t make home made baby food! But what Kate knows is that while all of that is great, what really matters is that she loves her daughter and after that everything else will fall into place. This is a great read for any mother or soon to be mom who is looking for something light and fun to read while the baby is napping or while awaiting its arrival. The discovery of the murderer and their reasons behind are a shocking twist that many won’t see coming. Motherhood Is Murder is a fun, fast, cozy read that will keep its readers entertained and anxiously awaiting the next installment. A must read.

Henry's Sisters by Cathy Lamb

Ever since the Bommarito sisters were little girls, their mother, River, has written them a letter on pink paper when she has something especially important to impart. And this time, the message is urgent and impossible to ignore—River requires open-heart surgery, and Isabelle and her sisters are needed at home to run the family bakery and take care of their brother and ailing grandmother. Isabelle has worked hard to leave Trillium River, Oregon, behind as she travels the globe taking award-winning photographs. It’s not that Isabelle hates her family. On the contrary, she and her sisters Cecilia, an outspoken kindergarten teacher, and Janie, a bestselling author, share a deep, loving bond. And all of them adore their brother, Henry, whose disabilities haven’t stopped him from helping out at the bakery and bringing good cheer to everyone in town.But going home again has a way of forcing open the secrets and hurts that the Bommaritos would rather keep tightly closed—Isabelle’s fleeting and too-frequent relationships, Janie’s obsessive compulsive disorder, and Cecilia’s self-destructive streak and grief over her husband’s death. Working together to look after Henry and save their flagging bakery, Isabelle and her sisters begin to find answers to questions they never knew existed, unexpected ways to salve the wounds of their childhoods, and the courage to grasp surprising new chances at happiness.Poignant, funny, and as irresistible as one of the Bommarito sisters’ delicious giant cupcakes, Henry’s Sisters is a novel about family and forgiveness, about mothers and daughters, and about gaining the wisdom to look ahead while still holding tight to everything that matters most.

Will coming home to Trillium River be the wake up call that this family needs? Will they be able to finally deal with the trauma’s of their lives and finally find peace and happiness? Will they once and for all get the answers that they’ve unknowingly been searching for? But just when things seem as if they are finally turning around they get the most crushing, heart breaking news they could ever get. They are faced with something that they are not willing to deal with and could very well destroy any of the progress that they’ve made. It is now time for them to put everything else aside and come together as a family.

A beautifully written tale of one families struggles and triumphs. Of how they overcome adversity and figure out a way to move on with their lives. Of how to love and trust again. Of forgiveness and family. Full of laugh out loud moments and heartbreaking scenes, scenes that will have you crying as you read them, Henry’s Sisters is one story that you will regret not reading.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Life is Too Short to Eat Boring Rice

by Rachel Brady


I saw a billboard with this phrase today and thought to myself, “Yes. Life is too short to eat boring rice.” It is too short to do a lot of things.

Life is too short for me to wear clothes that don’t fit right just because I already own them. So what? I’ll give them away and then somebody else can own them. Problem solved.

It’s too short for painful shoes. Although, I will wear them to dress up.
Because life is also too short not to dress up sometimes.

Life is too short for me to bother with that little, almost-gone, flat and skinny yet not quite useless piece of soap that is left right before a bar disintegrates. I’m finished with that piece of soap.

Life’s too short to gut out reading a book that isn’t amazing. There are more incredible books in the world than I can read in my lifetime. I’m gonna stick with those.

Life is too short not to wear perfume even when it’s just me and the dishwasher.

Life is too short to say no to something today because of something that might happen tomorrow. That something also might not happen tomorrow. Where will that leave me? Wishing I’d done something different yesterday, that’s where.

Life’s too short to worry about what people think about me. Who am I to think they are thinking anything about me? That’s kind of narcissistic. Instead I’ll assume nobody is thinking anything about me. Then I can do whatever I want. I’ll have way more fun.

Life is too short to eat high-calorie but utterly boring food, like stale cookies from the supermarket. Yes to 400 calorie divine food, like the homemade, glorious brownies that my friend Wally brings to the office pot-luck lunches. No to 400 calorie boring food, like store bought birthday cake with waxy icing.

Unless I feel like eating it that day. Life is too short not to do what I feel like sometimes.

Life is too short for complaining. Fix or accept.

Too short for blame.

Also for grudges.

Too short for agonizing over decisions. I recently had to buy a clock. I went to Target and they didn’t have quite what I wanted. On the spot, I decided that I didn’t need the best clock on the planet. The best one at Target would suffice. So I picked one. The world didn’t end.

Life’s too short for second guessing the past. I made the best choices I could at the time, with the information I had at the time. Sure, I know more now. But, I didn’t then. Short of time travel, there’s no solution I see here other than moving forward. Life is One Way.


Life is too short to play my favorite music at a reasonable volume.

It’s too short to worry about grass stains.

And that billboard was right. It’s way to short to eat boring rice.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Writing the High-Concept Novel

I first heard the term “high concept” applied to novels a few years ago and I have to admit, for a time, the idea had me banging my head against a wall. Generally used to describe a film or a television show, high concept is basically a one or two sentence tagline that’s tightly worded and conjures an immediate image in the mind. Take “Snakes on a Plane.” You almost can’t help but smile. Those four simple words practically scream “campy high adventure.” So while I understood the idea of pitching the high concept movie, I wasn’t so sure how high concept translated when talking about books. After mulling it over, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s really not a lot of difference.

In today’s highly competitive publishing market, it’s not enough to simply write a good book. In order to get your good book read by agents and editors you have to have a hook. And high concept is the ultimate hook. A high concept tagline not only makes your book easier to pitch, it shows that you, as a writer, know the value of marketing.

A high concept pitch has several elements:
A great title
An original idea, or a well-known idea with a new twist
Has universal appeal

Take the following examples. These are recent deal blurbs that I pulled from Publishers Marketplace (an excellent place to find out what is selling and to whom).

Kate Pearce’s The Tudor Vampire Chronicles, a series of vampire romances dealing with the complicated supernatural lives of the queens of King Henry VIII, and the real reasons why some of them survived and some of them died.

This one is a no-brainer. Vampires are extremely hot right now (they have been for some time and it doesn’t look like they are going to go out of fashion) so a vampire romance is a good lead in. But there are a LOT of vampire romances out there. What’s different about this story is the Tudor timeline. It’s not a historical time frame that’s done often in romance. Add in the fact that Showtime’s’ hit series The Tudors have actually made Henry the VIII sexy, and you have a hot, fresh twist on a well-known idea. Plus, it helps that the story of Henry’s wives is something that almost everyone in English speaking countries is aware of. The story hints that paranormal elements are responsible for some of those beheaded queens and I’m instantly intrigued.

Vicky Dreiling’s Confessions of a Duchess: A Matchmaker’s Misadventures, The Bachelor in Regency England (minus the hot tub and camera crew).

I have to admit, the title didn’t necessarily grab me, however, historicals set in Regency England are extremely popular. The term “matchmaker’s misadventures” made me think “fun” which was cemented by the one line blurb: The Bachelor in Regency England minus the hot tub and camera crew. Brilliant!

Todd Ritters’ debut, Death Notice, in which a small town police chief must thwart a serial killer who is sending in obituaries to the local newspaper before the subjects end up gruesomely murdered.

Yuck. I’m creepily grossed out. But who doesn’t love a good suspense novel? There are elements to this story that seem familiar (the serial killer on the loose who thinks he’s clever enough to outwit the cops so he actually sends them clues), but the obituary element seems like a new twist, plus I’m empathetic to the poor small town police chief who has to catch this sicko.

So, while high concept is used to refer to the pitch used to try to sell the book, it also refers to the book itself. When I got the idea to write my Bunco Babes series, I immediately thought “Sex in the City meets Bunco.” I didn’t pitch my story in those exact words, but it was the tagline in my head as I wrote out my synopsis and I think it came through.

Is there a tagline or a short blurb for a novel that has instantly intrigued you? And if so, what was it?

Maria Geraci

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Perspective

First, I want to take moment to remember the people of Joplin, Missouri. I can’t imagine anything more horrifying than being trapped in a store while a tornado bears down, knowing that the store will probably collapse and bury you alive. The devastation is vast, the damage unthinkable. So, sending good thoughts and prayers to the people who are trying to put their lives together, one day at a time.

I am reflecting on this because I just passed the sixth anniversary of my original melanoma diagnosis. (There would be another, more serious diagnosis, the following year after I had achieved NED—no evidence of disease—just two months prior.) This past Friday, the day I had been diagnosed all those years before, was the same as every other here: get up, make lunches, walk dog, feed cat, do laundry, find lacrosse stick, carpool, grocery shop, walk dog again, feed cat again, make dinner. In between all of that, I juggled the management of twenty books for my day job, all of which need to go to the printer by this Friday at the latest. All were in various stages of being finished. Finally, after everything was cleaned up, I poured a glass of wine for me and my husband and sat down. I then proceeded to belly ache about my day and how busy I had been, how tired I was. He matched me, complaint for complaint. After we had finished, I looked over at the calendar to see when the next Little League game was and saw the date: May 20th.

I had a couple of reactions. The first was awe that I had not counted down to the day as I had in previous years. I was making progress on that account! The second was that I needed to shut my freaking pie hole.

I looked at Jim and said, “Six years ago today, I was an unpublished writer with a Stage IIIc diagnosis. Today, I have five books in print and I’m healthy.” I clinked my glass against his. “Here’s to complaining about the little things.”

When I was dealing with my cancer situation, people would say things to me like “It really puts everything in perspective, huh?” or “I bet you’ll never complain about the little things again, right?” Wrong. I didn’t need perspective then or now. I had and have it; I know how lucky we are. And being able to complain about the little things, the stupid stuff, means that you don’t have anything big to complain about. To me, focusing on the little problems that we all deal with on a day to day basis—standing in a line we consider too long, driving behind a car we think is going too slow, having an appliance break down—is a gift. It means we’re human and we can focus on the small stuff.

One of the best days in the last six years occurred when my kids—who normally get along swimmingly—had a knock-down, drag-out fight over something ridiculous. There was screaming, yelling, and eventually crying. There was Mom “taking sides,” according to one kid, and blame placing. Eventually, there were hugs and resolution. And all of it was music to my ears. When you go through something like an illness, or god forbid, a death, things change. The way people behave around you changes. Your kids stop fighting because they don’t want to upset you. They think you’ve got enough on your plate and are wise enough to settle their disagreements in private, away from you. So the way you know that things are normal again is when they have a knock-down, drag-out fight in your presence, and expect you to make everything right again.

All of that, to me, is perspective.

Today, take a moment and thank the universe for all of the petty annoyances that make up your day. I have already given thanks for the dishwasher that really doesn’t wash dishes, the dog who refuses to do anything in the rain, and the manuscript that won’t edit itself, no matter how long I stare at it.

Blessings to all of our Stiletto faithful and to anyone else dealing with the things that life can throw at you and that you have to learn to deal with without any preparation whatsoever.

Oh, and May is Skin Cancer Awareness month! Wear your sunscreen, even if it's cloudy!

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Watching Old Movies

Watching movies is one of my favorite pastimes--not that I have much time to pass.

I love going into a movie theater with anticipation, hoping that I'll be entertained, charmed, seduced, scared, or surprised. It doesn't always happen, but I'm pretty choosy about which movies I pay good money to see. I'm not quite so choosy when I'm picking out a Netflix movie to watch. If I don't like it, I'll pop it out and stick it back in the envelope for its return trip.

Because I've spent my hard-earned money, I seldom walk out of a movie in a theater. I have done it once or twice though, when the movie was so gross I couldn't stand another minute. The theater managers have always kindly let us go see another movie. Of course there are movies that I watch clear to the end and am disappointed, but that doesn't happen too often.

This never happened when I was a kid growing up. My dad worked in the movie business and we went to the show nearly every Friday night. In those days there were always two movies--the first run and a B picture. (Also a news reel, coming attractions, a comic, and often entertainment of some kind during intermission.) We could have easily left before the B picture started, and we wouldn't have missed much if we had, but neither Mom nor Dad could bear not to get their full money's worth. (I'm sure this came from not having much of anything during the depression.)

Back to my subject of watching old movies, thanks to Netflix I've revisited some movies that I loved when I saw them the first time. Frankly, I've been disappointed by some. "Giant" was one. In fact, several movies Elizabeth Taylor was in have disappointed me. Sometimes the acting seemed what my husband calls "too over the top."

I remembered "North by Northwest" fondly, but was disappointed when I watched it recently. Not the acting, Cary Grant was great and the story good, but the special effects left a lot to be desired. I'm afraid I'm spoiled by today's wonderful special effects.

One of my favorite movies of all time, "Gone with the Wind" is still as good as the first time I watched it. Clark Gable was a wonderful Rhett Butler. And "The Wizard of Oz" is another I've watched many, many times and still holds up.

The other night, hubby and I watched, "The Mirror with Two Faces," a Barbra Streisand movie and we loved it. Perhaps the story was a bit on the corny side, but the acting was great and so fun to see Lauren Bacall. If you haven't seen that one for awhile, try it again.

Have you ever re-watched an older movie and been disappointed?

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Monday, May 23, 2011

Summer Television Season

In the spirit of leaving economic problems, natural disasters, disease, political uprisings, and the end of the world to others to contemplate, I'm offering up a discussion this week on the all important subject of "summer television."

I'm not ashamed to admit that I love movies and television. I've always loved dramas best. My earliest memories of watching television involved not the cartoons, but old movies, soap operas, and detective series. But when summer rolled around there wasn't that much new to enjoy. When I was growing up summer television was rerun land.

Sometime in May the regular series would end their seasons and would start over from the beginning. With no vcrs or dvrs, your only chance of watching a missed episode of a favorite series was during the summer. That all changed when cable brought more channels to your screen than you had the time to view. Now not only are series episodes repeated during the middle of the winter, but you can view them on other "sister" networks the following week, in syndication on late night, and on-line. Cable is also responsible for creating the "made for summer" series.

Today's summer television landscape is filled with first run episodes of series developed just for the summer season! Some of them are just as good or better than the prime time fall series.

My returning favorites are:

In Plain Sight - a series about a female U.S. Marshall working in the Witness Protection Program in New Mexico. "Mary Shannon" is a tough, take charge heroine, whose weakness is her emotionally and financially needy mother and sister.

The Closer - this is the last season for this popular ensemble series of detectives in Los Angeles. Staring Kyra Sedgwick. Rumors are that a spin off series, Major Crimes, will debut next year, picking up where this last season ends.

America's Got Talent - great variety/talent show! Fun for all ages and perfect for the summer. Hosted by Sharon Osbourne, Piers Morgan, and Howie Mandel.

Covert Affairs - the series about a young CIA agent returns. It's fast, fun, and very stylish.

Rizzoli & Isles - a series loosely developed from Tess Gerritsen mysteries. It was a big hit last year. I enjoyed it, but not as much as the books.

Memphis Beat - a fun, cop show set in the Blues capital of the world. This sleeper series hasn't gotten enough press. It's an excellent choice for light summer viewing.

The new series, I'm most interested in seeing? Falling Skies - from Steven Spielberg, a post alien invasion series starring Noah Wylie. I loved him in ER. I hope this series is a hit. Nothing like a good alien invasion to kick off the summer!

What are your summer television viewing plans?

Rhonda
the Southern Half of Evelyn David

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords


Romances
Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, May 20, 2011

Murder with Lipstick

by Susan McBride 

I was fortunate enough to blurb Bethany Maines' debut novel, BULLETPROOF MASCARA, as her fabulous editor at Simon & Schuster is my former mystery editor at HarperCollins (hi, Sarah!).  When I read the book, I knew I'd like Bethany as she has a wicked sense of humor.  Since then, I've come to realize she's truly a Renaissance Woman:  graphic artist, martial artist, runner, writer, pot painter, dog mom, and, starting in June, a Stiletto Ganger.  We're very excited to have Bethany join the fold.  To introduce her to you all, I figured I'd ask some questions, beginning with her new novel released at the end of April. 

Susan:  First off, congratulations on the release of COMPACT WITH THE DEVIL, your second novel after the very entertaining BULLETPROOF MASCARA. Was writing COMPACT very different than writing your first book? Did you feel more pressure?

Bethany:  Well, with COMPACT I didn't change editors several times and there weren't multiple complete re-writes, soooo... no actually I felt less pressure. BULLETPROOF MASCARA took such a long time making it's way into print that by the time I was "supposed" to be writing COMPACT I had an entire rough draft tucked away, so I just pulled it out and freshened it up, which made the whole process go quite smoothly. It didn't occur to me that there could be more pressure until people started reading it. Then I realized that there was a whole level of reader expectation that I wast entirely un-prepared for. I'm still not prepared for it actually. Mostly I'm pulling an ostrich on that one.

Susan:  How do you categorize your novels? When I read BULLETPROOF, my impression was "Charlie's Angels meets James Bond."

Bethany:  That's probably a pretty good summation. I've been telling people that they're action-adventure for girls. I really enjoy action movies, but when I was growing up most of the women in action movies were screamers and/or boobs. I remember enjoying "Total Recall" well beyond the actual quality of the movie because both the heroine and the bad girl (a pre-Basic Instinct Sharon Stone) were ass-kickers in their own right. There have been more of those types of characters in recent years, but when I was a kid I wanted action movies with a woman as heroine - someone that I could pretend to be, while the dudes were pretending to be Van Damme. So when I started writing I wrote what I wanted. Hopefully my books create an action movie vibe but with women of strong character who believe in making their own choices.

Susan:  What, if any, of Bethany shows up in Nikki?

Bethany:  When I set out to write BULLETPROOF MASCARA I knew I was writing the first adventure of a super-spy, so I really thought hard about the problems I saw with "first" novels - both the first novels of writers and the first novels about a character. One of the problems I saw was that first novels often feature characters that are thinly veiled versions of the author. So I tried to make Nikki as different from me as possible. I don't have red hair, I didn't study linguistics, I don't speak French, I'm not super into speed, I'm taller than she is, my parents are still married and my mom's not crazy. This caused it's own set of problems of course, like having to research linguistics and finding someone to translate French for me. I think where Nikki and I overlap is in our attitudes. I have a strong feminist streak (in case you haven't noticed) and I really believe that women should help each other. I also think we share a bit of the same sense of humor and we both love to travel.

Susan:  You have a lot of action scenes in your novels. Does being a runner and a martial artist influence that?

Bethany:  Mostly it shows up in the ways that I don't write action scenes! Not only does my dojo have a strong family feeling ("The family that kicks together, sticks together!" is not just a slogan), but my brother and sister-in-law are also instructors there, and if I wrote something that was too unrealistic or inaccurate I'd hear about it. Talk about pressure! The last thing that I want to hear when I come in to teach my class is, "That is not how you break someone's arm!" Well, I don't want to hear it about something about I've written anyway.

Susan:  What are some of your favorite books? What's at the top of your TBR stack?

Bethany:  Favorite books? That's a long list! Um.... In no particular order, THE BLUE CASTLE (If you haven't read it do it NOW) by LM Montgomery, THE BLUE SWORD by Robin McKinley (or maybe I just like blue...), SNOW CRASH by Neal Stephenson, GUARDS! GUARDS! by Terry Pratchett, THE DEATH IN... series (Zanzibar, Cyprus, Berlin, etc) by MM Kaye, and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST by... Actually I forget who wrote it, but the one illustrated by Hilary Knight. And I'm sure I could think of a dozen more if I thought about it for longer than a minute, but my most recent favorite is THE MANUAL OF DETECTION by Jedidiah Berry. It had a beautiful dreamy quality that was perfectly suited to it's plot.

And as for the TBR stack...I'm dying for HEARTLESS by Gail Carriger to be released. (June 28th! Not that I'm counting!) I'm so addicted to that series (SOULLESS, BLAMELESS, CHANGELESS, look them up if you love a good bodice ripping, vampire, werewolf, mystery type of story). And I've got an interesting YA book called MATCHED that's up next on the night stand.

Susan:  And--because we are the Stiletto Gang--I have to ask if you have a favorite pair of high heels? You get extra points if they're animal print, you know.

Bethany:  Oh no! I don't own any with animal print! But I do have a pair of candy apple red slingbacks that are pretty much to die for.

For more about Bethany and her books, please visit her web site!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Life and Art and Maria and Arnold

by Maria Geraci

Oscar Wilde once wrote that "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life." I'm not sure which imitates which more, but I will say that life and art seem intrinsically bound together. Art springs from life and vice versa, and lately, it seems we've had plenty of examples of each.

As I watched the season finale of The Good Wife this past week, I had to chuckle sadly to myself. First off, if you're not a fan of The Good Wife, then you should be. It's one of the best shows on television. When I first heard of the show's premise, I have to admit to an eye roll. Attractive male politician cheats on his wife, gets caught, publicly apologizes to his constituents, all with the loyal wife standing by his side.

Sound familiar?

The only reason I watched the series premiere last year was because the show starred Julianna Marguiles and Josh Charles and I figured with that kind of cast, it couldn't be all bad. It has now become my favorite program on TV. In the wake of the whole Arnold/Maria split and the all the new revelations that have surfaced this week I can only say that the show becomes more relevant each day.
 
This week's season finale showed Alicia,  the "good wife" character played by Julianna, finally giving in to her attraction to her boss and long time crush from law school, Will (played by Josh Charles). I know I wasn't the only woman in America screaming "yes!" when they kissed in the elevator.

Was it wrong? Well, technically Alicia is still married to the cheating Peter (played by none other than Sex and the City's Mr. Big, Chris Noth) so I guess it is. However, it is finally time that the self-sacrificing wife, mom, and sole family supporter got a little lovin' herself. I kind of hope Maria is taking notes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dude, It's Ok!

As someone who has been involved in youth sports in a variety of capacities, as parent, as coach, and as a general volunteer, I can tell you that we are lucky to live in a Village where teamwork is stressed and sportsmanship is king.  This past weekend, as a matter of fact, I took child #2 to his lacrosse game at a visiting field and was thrilled to see both teams play hard but in a manner that was considerate of each other. Case in point:  my son, the goalie, blocked a shot.  WITH HIS THIGH.  He went down to his knees, his helmeted head on the ground and lay still for a few minutes to wait for the pain to subside.  (And yes, it took every ounce of self control I had not to get up, run across the field, arms flailing, yelling "Honey?  Are you ok?")  Finally, he got up, a little shaky, and returned to goal.  But before play could resume, the kid on the other team--the one who had taken the shot that had felled my son--walked over and put his arm around my son's shoulder.  Their conversation went something like this:

"Dude.  I'm sorry."

"Dude.  It's ok."

They are men of few words but the words spoken are enough.

Later, when the other goalie was carried off the field by his coach, having been hit so many times in the knee that he could no longer stand--yes, lacrosse is a rough game--all of the kids on the field, from both teams, went down on one knee and applauded his efforts in goal, inquiring after the game if he was ok.

I admit, I had brought the Sunday papers to the game so I could read during the numerous breaks in the action.  And there are a lot in lacrosse.  I turned to the back page of the paper where sports are reported and saw a headline about the New York Yankees' catcher, Jorge Posada.  Posada is a long-time member of the team, a crucial part of the Yankee dynasty, but is now 39 years old and a little brittle.  All those years behind the plate, crouched down, take a toll on one's body.  So this year, he has been relegated to designated hitter status mostly, coming out and hitting in the line up for the pitcher.

Until this past weekend.

It was a crucial three-game series against the Red Sox, the Yankees' chief nemesis.  (Let me state right here that I am not--and was never--a Yankee fan.  However, I do not go so far as to root for the Red Sox.  I have my limits.)  Posada, hitting in the .160 range--which is bad for those of you who don't follow baseball--was dropped by manager Joe Girardi to the number nine spot in the batting order.  Back in the day, Posada hit somewhere in the three-to-six range of the line up, so nine was definitely a demotion.  But what Posada did next stunned everyone.

He refused to play.

Thinking that the number nine spot in the line up was some kind of assault on his manhood and pride, he chose instead to bench himself.  He basically took his bat and his ball and went home.

Suffice it to say, this created a stir in the New York sports world.  The manager commented.  The general manager commented.  His teammates commented and some even defended him.  His wife took to Twitter to say that he had a bad back and wasn't a bad sport.  He later confessed that he didn't have a bad back, was indeed a bad sport, apologized, and said it would never happen again.

But it happened in the first place and that's what matters.

I follow New York sports very closely and listen to sports radio a fair amount so I can tell you that in general, Jorge Posada is a nice, upstanding guy.  He does a lot of charity work.  He keeps his nose clean. He has a tight-knit family.  I'm inclined to give him a past because this was clearly an aberration and not his usual classy way of handling things.  But what went wrong in his brain this past weekend to make him do such a bone-headed thing?  I guess it's pride.  It got the better of him.

The kids and I talked about this and I was happy that neither thought that what he had done was justified. The whole situation was interesting to me, however, because in one weekend, I saw more class and guts from a group of twelve-year-olds on a muddy lacrosse field than from a guy who makes fourteen million dollars a year to go to bat four times in one game, five if the game goes into extra innings.

So this post has nothing to do with writing and I don't have a question to pose but I wanted to take the opportunity to give a shout-out to the kids out there who put sportsmanship before pride and play hard each and every game.  For free.

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What's in a Name?


Naming your characters can sometimes take as long as figuring out the plot. I always want the character name to have some reflection on the personality of the character, but it doesn’t always work out.

My Rocky Bluff P.D. series began years ago and though I was definitely concerned about picking out the perfect names for each of the characters, at that time I didn’t even consider that I shouldn’t have main characters whose names begin with the same letter. Now I’m stuck with some of them. For instance, my main detective—who was a street cop in the first and second books—is named Doug Milligan. His partner is Frank Marshall, making them Detectives Milligan and Marshall. Frank is getting close to retirement so once that happens the problem will be solved.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that for the sympathetic characters I seem to pick names of people that I really like. Of course not the whole name, but I’ve always loved the name Douglas and knew I had to use it for a hero type one day.  I have a cousin and nephew named Doug. In face, with a family as big as mine, it would be impossible to avoid any of their names.

In the beginning,  I hadn’t really thought much about the names for minor characters. And when Stacey Wilbur first made her appearance in Rocky Bluff, she was not that important. I’m not crazy about her name, though I’m certainly used to it by now because she’s become a major character and especially in Angel Lost as she’s preparing for her wedding to Doug Milligan. (Sometimes I feel the same way about the names my grandkids have chosen for their children but once they arrive the names seem to fit--and It's kind of that way in my books too.)

When I was choosing names for my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, I wanted my heroine who is part Indian, to have a name that sounded Native American. I chose to use my own great-grandmother’s name because I thought it fit the character. (And the first Tempe Crabtree has been long gone so I knew she wouldn’t mind—and the relatives who actually read my books think it’s great to have great-grandma immortalized, so to speak.) Another major Indian character is Nick Two John. I heard the name Two John and thought it would be a good one to use for Tempe’s friend who has educated her about her Native American heritage. My latest in this series is Invisible Path.

All the real-life Indians I know have quite common American sounding names and many others have Mexican roots. In fact, I try really hard not to use any of the family names of the Indians who live on the nearby reservation.

I collect names. Keeping graduation and play programs has also helped. I like to find a first name that’s unusual, fits the character, and then look for a last name that goes with the first name. Sometimes I’ll see a name in credits for a movie that I might use sometimes and quickly jot it down.

When I worked in day care, some of the girls had the most unusual first names—ones it took me a while to remember—and I wrote those down. And yes, I’ve used some in different books I’ve written.

I recently read a teen book called “Prom and Prejudice” (was really fun and guess what it was based on) and the main hero’s name was Darcy. Some names are so connected to books and movies—think Rhett. Would you name a hero Rhett? Probably not, unless there was a good reason for it.

For you writers out there, how do you go about picking names for your characters? And you readers, how important is a character’s name to you?

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Monday, May 16, 2011

Is This Publish or Perish?

This isn't going to be the current dither about the minimal royalties traditional publishing houses are paying their authors for e-book rights. The bottom line is that authors are entitled to a bigger share of the e-book profits. There's nothing to debate. Publishers figure it out and shell out. You're going to eventually lose this argument, so do it now.

Nope, I'm going to rail about the idiotic publishing deals that have been in the news. I'm going to add that part of the reason why traditional publishing houses are in trouble financially is that they make ridiculous deals – and then are surprised when the advances aren't earned out.

Is there any Stiletto Faithful who intends to buy a book, any book, from Levi Johnston, Bristol Palin's baby daddy? Is there anyone who isn't appalled at the title of Levi's book, Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin’s Crosshairs? I realize that the publisher is playing off Sarah Palin's love of hunting, but I am also convinced that this is an allusion to the famous web site endorsed by the former Alaskan governor which had Democratic candidates in the crosshairs for defeat. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was one of those included. Levi Johnston should not have gotten a book contract because he has nothing to say. And Levi's editor should be ashamed for choosing that title.

Next: let's move on to the book contract that Bristol Palin, Levi's baby mama, received. Again, in a tight publishing market, when smart mid-list authors are being cut faster than a New York minute, why on earth would you give this 20-year old, with her new jaw, a publishing contract? Who is going to buy this book? And even if the publisher is sure there is a market, where is the good sense that these people were born with?

Last but certainly not least. What about the six-figure book deal that Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino of Jersey Shore fame managed to score? Now there's a philosophy that's worth mega-bucks, sarcasm intended.

These publishing deals are stupid. Besides the fact that these faux-celebrities have nothing to add to the general discussion, we all know that not one of them is actually doing the writing. And I would bet dollars to donuts that the ghostwriters hired for these gigs are getting minimal pay and maximum aggravation.

Now if any of these faux-authors get a six-figure deal for a sex tape, I say more power to them. At least in that case, they're actually doing the "work."

But otherwise, publishers smarten up.

Marian, the Northern Half of Evelyn David

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords


Romances
Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, May 13, 2011

Black Cats, Voodoo Dolls & Friday the 13th Blogs

By Laura Spinella

**This blog was suppose to post earlier, but the Friday the 13th Blogger gremlins decided to add to my debut blog fun!! Enjoy!!


Today is my first day as a regular at The Stiletto Gang. I’ve known my post date for a while now; on my May calendar there’s a giant red circle around FRIDAY THE 13TH. Maybe the gang wanted me to have plenty of time to think about it. I’d like to tell you I’m not the superstitious type, but that would be a lie. And it’s probably best not to lie your first day on the blog. I’m sure the ominous date is a coincidence. In fact, I’m almost positive. But being more paranoid than superstitious, I can’t say I’m convinced. After all, stiletto wearing women convey a certain image, and it’s not like they try to hide their hooligan status. But since I’ve openly joined a gang, I shall take my solemn oath and any date-hazing in stride.

In an effort to counteract my inauspicious debut, and perhaps prove that I’m tougher than any calendar date, I did some checking into Friday the 13th. In numerology, 12 is considered the number of completeness. It defines the tribes of Israel, the apostles of Jesus and the gods of Olympus. It’s the hands on a clock completing a day. But number 13, a sad indivisible digit, is considered a sign of irregularity, violating the splendor of completeness. Hmm, maybe I do belong here… I digress. In any case, apparently all religions plus Greek mythology have a hang up with the number 13. Furthermore, the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute (seriously, I’m not making this up) estimates that 21 million people are affected by Friday the 13th. That said, I suppose I’m in good company and my angst is not without merit.

My mother and husband celebrate their birthdays on the 13th. It doesn’t seem to bother them. On the other hand, they are also the only two people I know who could sleep in a cemetery with a Ouija board tucked under their head and get a good night’s rest. Neither one is susceptible to rabbit’s foot ideologies or theories about broken ladders, black cats, and voodoo dolls. Being a writer, however, I succumb easily to these phobias. Frankly, I think it’s a genetic predisposition: the creative are prone to irrational fears.

Perhaps it’s best demonstrated by the obsessive compulsive traits of a writer, which can almost always be linked to superstition. For example, I’d never start a day’s work without hot tea served in my black UGA

(University of Georgia, which you’ll hear me squawk about a lot) mug. We own a dozen UGA mugs, but it has to be the black one with the fat rim. Well, the black one with the fat rim until the day I dropped it in the sink and cracked the bottom. I swear, my writing hasn’t been the same since. After the mug come the ever inspirational Red Sox pajama pants. (I’m region flexible, team specific) They’re so worn Good Will would be insulted, but I’m convinced there’s a direct link between uninspired writing and pajama pants in the wash. I’m also computer specific and superstitious. My laptop is dedicated to book writing while the desktop is for freelance work and rewriting my children’s essays, book reports, etc. It’s an untidy place, littered with coffee stained papers and dust. Recently, we had a shift in activity at our house and I was banished to the desktop computer. Three quarters through my new manuscript, this was not the time to upset my rituals or test superstition. At first, I bitched and panicked. I was sure three quarters of this book was written to the best of my genius—which might not be saying much—and the rest was doomed. I’m pleased to report that I’ve rounded the corner to the finish, amazed that the bulky HP had little effect on my writing. Granted, I am wearing the pajama pants, so I’m not completely without a vice. But I believe it was a good lesson, proving that superstition is, perhaps, just that. So here I am, delivering my Friday the 13th blog to The Stiletto Gang. I look forward to being a part of this fine group of women writers and my June 10 blog. It happens to be the same date that the Salem witch trials began. By all means, ladies, bring it on.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dying for Justice: The Jackson Story That Almost Wasn’t

by L.J. Sellers


When I started outlining this story, I felt like my novel-writing career had hit bottom. When I finished writing it eight months later, I was on a career high. So…Dying for Justice, the fifth Detective Jackson novel, which I’m giving away today, is a little different from the other four.

In February when I wrote the outline, I planned to give up the series because the second book had a failed launch and I worried that I would face more if I stayed with the same publisher. So I decided to launch a different series with a new character and hopefully a new publisher. I thought it was the only way I could save my career. I mapped out a plot in which Detective Evans, one of Jackson’s sidekicks, was the lead character with Jackson as a strong secondary character—hoping my old readers would come along and try the new series.

Then everything changed. My husband and I were laid off our jobs, e-books started to take off, and I re-envisioned my novelist career. I set the new Detective Evans manuscript aside to rewrite two standalone thrillers and put them up on Kindle. Next I regained the rights to my series and self-published the first four Jackson books. That took most of the year.

In late October, my series became a bestseller on Kindle and readers were asking for more Jackson novels. It was time to start writing again. After reading through my outline for the Evans-based story, I decided I really liked the plot and would go ahead and write it, giving the two detectives equal POV roles.

So my latest Jackson story also features Detective Evans as a major POV character. She and Jackson each work their own homicide cases and tell their own stories…which of course come to overlap in a stunning twist.

Every story I write is based, at least partially, on a social issue I feel strongly about at the time. When I conceptualized this plot, I couldn’t stop thinking about prisoners who had been released after their convictions were overturned. In several cases, the suspect had been coerced into a false confession. I felt compelled to highlight the issue.

In book four, Passions of the Dead, I’d mentioned that Jackson’s parents had been murdered and the killer had gone to jail. It was the perfect opening for a novel involving a false confession. I worried that having Jackson reopen and solve his parents’ case would seem clich├ę, but it’s only one element of the story. Detective Evans also works a case from the past and her main suspect is a police sergeant. The overlapping stories are powerful and readers have raved about the novel.

The other theme in Dying for Justice is the issue of family estrangement. I’m very close to my own siblings who all live here in Eugene. But my husband went for years without talking to his brothers, and I’ve discovered that the phenomenon is fairly common. I wrote about this issue to help me understand how it can happen to families.

Using two protagonists and cases made the story challenging at times, but I had a great time writing from Evans’ POV. She’s very different from Jackson—more physical, more impatient, more impulsive—and it was liberating to let her out in full action. In fact, once I developed Evans’ character more fully, I liked her enough to bring her forward into the futuristic thriller I’m writing now. My hope is that basing this new standalone book on a familiar character will bring my Jackson readers along for the ride.

To be entered to win a copy of Dying for Justice, simply post a comment. A winner will be chosen at random.

Buy Dying for Justice at Amazon 

Buy Dying for Justice at Barnes & Noble

http://ljsellers.com/

------------------

L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and the author of the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/suspense series: The Sex Club, Secrets to Die For, Thrilled to Death, Passions of the Dead, and Dying for Justice. Her novels have been highly praised by Mystery Scene, CrimeSpree, and Spinetingler magazines, and the series is on Amazon Kindle’s bestselling police procedural list. L.J. also has two standalone thrillers: The Baby Thief and The Suicide Effect. When not plotting murders, she enjoys performing standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes. http://ljsellers.com/



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Paddling Against the Current

This past Sunday was a beautiful day in the Northeast, so Jim and I strapped the kayaks onto the roof of the car and headed down to the River. This wasn’t the kayaks maiden voyage of the season; child #1 and the French exchange student had kayaked last weekend and christened them for the new season. We hopped in and paddled away from the shore, the water calm and the wind barely blowing. The day had the perfect conditions for kayaking.

About five hundred feet into our trip, I started complaining. My life vest was riding up. My paddle didn’t seem to be working correctly. Someone had changed the foot pedals in the boat and my feet were too far away from them. Jim calmly told me how to adjust everything and we started out again but this time, I noticed the underlying problem, the one that was making the beginning of the journey so hard.

We were paddling against the current.

Makes sense. The river we kayak on feeds into the great Hudson River, so the water is going to flow in that direction. I had forgotten that for the first part of the trip, you were paddling upstream, as it were, going against the flow, which made making any headway more difficult. When we reached the turnaround, a little stretch with a copse of wild overgrown trees smack in the middle of the water, I put my paddle down. There was no need for it. The current carried us through this stretch, our boats moving silently and gracefully along.

See where I’m going here?

Sometimes life feels like being in a forty-pound kayak paddling upstream. Other times, it feels like you are on autopilot, being carried along by the gentle current, the one that leads you in the right direction. I think this analogy applies even more so to writing. You jump into your work-in-progress and….thunk. No where to go. Paddling upstream. Your vest is too tight. Nothing is working.

I always tell my kids that it takes way more energy to be negative than it does to be positive. I’m trying to bring this approach to life in general, and writing, more specifically. Paddling upstream on your book is a waste of time. So, show of hands: who likes to waste time out there? (I’m looking…I don’t see anyone.) I thought about what I do when I hit a bad patch in the plot or a character does something that doesn’t make any sense to me or I get a case of your garden-variety writer’s block. Well, in kayaking terms, sometimes I whine that my vest is too tight. Sometimes I blame it on the paddle. And sometimes I just row back to shore and rest a while until I realize what’s been stumping me. It may be as easy as starting over, putting my character in a different situation. I may have him or her run into someone and start a conversation. I might have them make a phone call. I’ll do anything to get to that tranquil place where I let it all go and let the current—or in this case, my imagination—guide me back to shore.

I may have stretched this analogy thinner than a taut rubber band and for that, I apologize. Sometimes, though, things just hit me in the face and make me wonder if other people experience the same sorts of issues in life and in writing.

What do you do when you find yourself going against the current or paddling upstream in either your writing or life in general?

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

One of My Favorite Things

No, one of my favorite things is not singing. Nor would it be anyone else's favorite to hear me sing. At church sometimes when I'm singing away, the people in front of me turn around to stare with a shocked look on their face. I have to remind myself that the Bible says, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord."

But I digress. Last week I was fortunate to make yet another visit to a college class. This time it was a creative writing class at West Hills College in Lemoore. Lemoore is an agricultural town in the Central Valley of California, but also the home of the Lemoore Naval Air Station.

The campus is quite new and lovely. But like all college campuses to get anywhere, you must do a lot of walking. I think that's on purpose so that the students will remain trim.

I was asked to speak on promotion. As usual, I took handouts for the students and I gave each one a free book from my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series.

What I loved about this class was that everyone really wanted to be there and hear what I had to say--including the teacher. What a joy to see such eager students and they had some great questions.

After the class, the teacher took me, my daughter-in-law who kindly had come along to drive and sell books, and two of the students (the only two who didn't have another class to go right away) to lunch. They chose a Mexican restaurant with fantastic food. I had nachos that had so much on them I could only eat half.

It was great day! Speaking to anyone about writing is great fun--but it's even more fun for me when it's people who are new to the writing craft.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Books on My Kindle

My co-author Marian received a Kindle for Mother's Day. I've had mine since last December - a combination birthday and Christmas gift. Last week I purchased two ebook mysteries from Amazon, hoping to find time to read them. As I downloaded the ebooks, I thought The Stiletto Gang readers might find the current titles on my Kindle interesting.

Of course the first books I put on my Kindle were those by Evelyn David. I mean charity always begins at home, right? I have all five of the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - you can see those listed at the bottom of this post with handy buy links. I also have our Sullivan Investigations mysteries - Riley Come Home, Murder Off the Books and Murder Takes the Cake (also see below for buy links). And our romance short story collection - yes, we've written some love stories! One of the stories in the collection, Pipe Dreams, was published in Woman's World (and yes, we've got a buy link below - we are nothing if not prepared to make it as easy as possible for our readers to find our books).

These are the non-Evelyn David ebooks I have loaded on my Kindle:

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Secret of the Scroll by Chester Campbell
Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell
Love You More: A Detective D.D. Warren Mystery by Lisa Gardner
Live to Tell: A Detective D.D. Warren Mystery by Lisa Gardner
The Neighbor: A Detective D.D. Warren Mystery by Lisa Gardner
The Confession: A Novel by John Grisham
South Riding by Winifred Holtby
Down the Long Hills by Louis L'Amour
Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane
Christmas Mourning by Margaret Maron
The Reincarnationist Series by M.J. Rose
Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Steward

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson is a brand new novel and author for me. I haven't started the ebook yet, but I love the title. Sometimes I do buy books mostly because the title intrigues me. Isn't that a great title? Other titles that have caught my attention over the years: A Bad Day for Pretty, If I'd Killed Him When I Met Him, and She Walks These Hills.

I downloaded The Secret Garden because I'd never read the children's book and it was free. Never discount the allure of "free." Only thing is, I've had the book five months and still haven't read it. Secret of the Scroll was also offered as a free download by the author, Chester Campbell. I've read Chester's posts on the listserve DorothyL and appreciate his humor. I haven't read his book yet, but I will.

I've read all of Patricia Cornwell's "Kay Scarpetta" novels and read Port Mortuary during Christmas. I enjoyed it, but miss the "Kay" of the early novels in the series. I read those books several times each. I'd never consider rereading the later ones. Now I'm just along for the ride. I want to see how the series ends. I have all the other books in hardback, but buying the more economical Kindle editions will make me feel a little better about my continued investment in the series.

I received a couple of the Lisa Gardner "D.D. Warren" ebooks for Christmas and got hooked. I found the mysteries tightly written and loved the main character. I need to get the rest of the books in the series. I just purchased her latest, Love You More, but haven't had a minute to read it yet. I'm saving it as a reward for when my co-author and I finish one of the several writing projects we have in progress.

John Grisham is one of my favorite authors. The Confession was very good and up to the high standard of the other Grisham books. My favorite of his is still The Client. The movie made from it was good, but the book was better. The book is one that begs to be read aloud. Grisham's choice of words delivers the nuances of the southern location and characters perfectly.

I searched out South Riding by Winifred Holtby because I've started watching the current PBS series and enjoying the plot. I suspected that although the series was based on the novel, much had been edited out. The original print version has 500 pages, so even with the convenience of having the book on my Kindle, it might take me awhile to read it. I'm hoping this isn't a case of the television series being better than the book.

Down the Long Hills by Louis L'Amour was a book I read in my early teens and wanted to reread. It's a western, but it's also a wonderful tale of a young boy's survival after a wagon train massacre. He and a toddler make their way with the help of a large red horse.The book was just as good as I remembered.

I purchased Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane about four months ago and had trouble getting into it. But I loved Gone Baby, Gone so I will try again when I'm less distracted. Maybe during summer vacation.

Christmas Mourning by Margaret Maron is a fine installment of her Deborah Knott series. I own all of them and can't wait for the next.

The Reincarnationist Series by M.J. Rose was also a free download. I haven't started it yet. This is also a new author for me.

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Steward was the basis for one of my favorite television movies. The 1979 movie, Heartland, starred Conchata Ferrell and Rip Torn. In 1910, Elinore Randall, a widow, and her seven-year-old daughter travel by train to Wyoming to create a new life for themselves in the west. Elinore has a job as a housekeeper and cook for a lonely, taciturn rancher, but she has dreams of her own homestead. I've seen the movie more than a dozen times. I didn't realize it was based on a real person until I found the ebook earlier this year.

When I started this blog post, I thought it was going to be a short one. Sometimes I forget that before my co-author talked me into writing a novel, I'd spent 40 years reading just about everything I could get my hands on. I love books. And obviously I like talking about them.

Rhonda
aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords


Romances
Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”

--Abraham Lincoln

Happy Mother's Day 

from the Stiletto Gang!!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Writing with Your Pants on Fire


In light of yet another memoir author being outed as an exaggerator (at the very least), I figured it was the perfect opportunity to chat with Dr. Lya Lya Pansonfiah, who is definitely a legend in her own mind. You've probably seen Lya out and about as she speaks at fundraisers for her Pansonfiah Foundation, gives workshops to aspiring authors, and gabs on talk shows re. her "expertise" in the fields of mental health, animal training, and cosmetology. Dr. Pansonfiah's latest book is called A MILLION TINY CUPS OF TEA and purportedly details her (almost) real life experiences as a therapist who ran a rehab facility on the top of Mount Everest.  It makes for a fascinating conversation, as you’ll see.

Susan: Welcome, Dr. Pansonfiah, or may I call you Lya?  It’s a pleasure to have someone of your questionable caliber visit us.

Lya:  Oh, what I've got isn't of questionable caliber, Suzie-Q. It’s a .38 Special. I keep it tucked inside my Louis Vuitton tote bag at all times, considering how crazy folks are these days.

Susan:  Crazy, indeed. As a fiction writer, I’m used to making up stories, which end up in things I call “novels.” But I’m not sure what to call what you do. Are you a nonfiction storyteller? A pseudo-expert? A mem-fic author? Or just a reality show wannabe?

Lya: What I am is a Renaissance Woman, pure and simple. Nothing is beyond my reach, and, if it is, I’ll just grab myself a ladder and climb on up. That’s how I am. Unfazed by obstacles.

Susan: Obstacles like the truth, you mean.

Lya: Truth schmooth! What is it anyway but one person’s perception of a moment in time!  It's all an illusion or is that a delusion?

Susan: I'd say either works in your case. Might I ask about your educational background? On the CV you emailed, I can’t quite make out the name of your alma mater. It looks like, “Fa├žadeUniversity.com.” I’ve never heard of it.

Lya: That’s because it’s French. But what’s book learning anyway? I earned my credentials at the most difficult institution on the planet, even tougher than Harvard and Yale combined. It’s called the School of Hard Knocks. That’s where I got my doctorate.

Susan: Hmm, I’m not sure that it’s an accredited institution.

Lya: Forget degrees! I didn't need one to become an elephant trainer, did I?  And if you've seen that flick, "Water for Elephants," you can witness what a bang-up job I did.  Saved that tiny Reese Witherspoon from being trampled more than once.  Or how about my mastery of makeup?  Do you think Lady Gaga was truly born that way?  And how about my past domination of the beauty pageant scene. You do realize I was crowned Miss America, Miss Universe, and Miss Galaxy all in one fell swoop? It was the largest pageant ever, held at Trump’s casino in Vegas, and Oprah sang the National Anthem. I’ve never heard such a beautiful voice.

Susan:  Wow, your experiences are certainly unbelievable. I noticed your press release also states that you served a prison stint at Folsom with Johnny Cash. What happened?

Lya: I shot a man, just to see him die. Everyone knows that! I also shot the sheriff, and narrowly escaped prosecution in Georgia when the lights went out and they hung an innocent man.

Susan: I can name those tunes in five notes.

Lya: Are you questioning my veracity, Ms. McMuffin? Are you calling me a fake?

Susan:  If the faux Jimmy Choo fits....

Lya:  Oh, ye of little faith!  You can’t even imagine how many people believe every word I say.

Susan:  I can, yep.

Lya: And those who know better, I call LIARS (all in caps), because it’s better to strike first, you know.

Susan: Good plan.

Lya: It’s something I developed while heading the Global War Tribunal at the Pentagon. It’s called Even If You Ask, I Won’t Tell the Truth.

Susan:  Perfect.

Lya: It trumps that 12-Step stuff every time. Which reminds me, did I tell you about my recovery from mainlining Hostess Cupcakes? Spent the better part of junior high drying out with some of Hollywood’s most notable bulimics.

Susan: We’ll save that for next-time.

Lya: Can’t wait.

(In the interest of journalistic integrity, it should be noted that Dr. Lya Lya Pansonfiah is not a real person, although there are plenty of Lyas who actually exist.  Their names are just not quite so, um, revealing.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Writing from Hawaii

by Douglas Corleone

If you’ve seen the new Hawaii Five-0 on CBS, you know that Hawaii, for all its beauty, can still make an effective setting for a gritty crime series. In fact, the contrast of horrible happenings in paradise inevitably adds another dimension to the stories. Readers often experience an enhanced sense of dread as they wonder, What hope do we have if we’re not even safe in a veritable utopia?

I first moved to Honolulu from New York City in 2005. I had never even visited Hawaii before, so I was seeing the islands with completely fresh eyes. It was the perfect opportunity to begin writing about another criminal defense attorney who left the Big Apple for paradise. In those first days at my small work space overlooking Waikiki Beach, I created the character who would eventually become the protagonist of my mystery series – hotshot defense lawyer Kevin Corvelli.

To say that Hawaii was inspiring would be an understatement. The island of Oahu doesn’t only serve as the setting for my first two novels – ONE MAN’S PARADISE and NIGHT ON FIRE – it’s also my home and the only place in which I feel comfortable writing. I attribute that to the sense of calm I experience here, not only because of the perfect weather, but because of the laid-back atmosphere, the general serenity of the island’s population.

People don’t fight for parking spaces here (even though there is a terrible lack of parking in certain areas). I haven’t received the middle finger since I moved here; drivers allow you to merge and all they expect in return is a friendly shaka (the hand gesture for “hang loose”). Most islanders operate on aloha time, which is to say that clocks don’t matter much here in Hawaii. And best of all, I was able to leave my suits and ties back in the Big Apple. Here I wear T-shirts and shorts and sandals. Getting dressed up means slipping into a comfortable Tommy Bahama or Tori Richard aloha shirt.

Of course, island life isn’t for everybody. In the past two years I’ve lost four good friends who moved back to the mainland. But Hawaii works for me and my family. My wife Jill is happier here than she was when she lived in New York and Florida. My toddler son Jack doesn’t yet know anywhere else, but he certainly seems to enjoy being able to play outside and to splash in the ocean year round. And me, well, as I said earlier, I’ve found my home.

My point is, setting is as important for writers as it is for their stories. It’s difficult to imagine Raymond Chandler writing from anywhere but Los Angeles. Think of how John Grisham’s stories would differ if they weren’t set in his sometimes turbulent but beloved South. Even now emerging crime writers are marking new territory, whether it be present-day San Francisco or turn-of-the-century New York, or even a sleepy small town in rural Pennsylvania.

Some stories are remembered as much for their setting as for their characters. The same, I think, is true of authors. If my series character Kevin Corvelli and I are remembered at all, I hope we’ll be remembered for Honolulu. My advice to aspiring writers: whatever your setting, wherever you write from, make the area pop off the page, and above all, make it your own.

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DOUGLAS CORLEONE is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime series set in Hawaii. His debut novel ONE MAN'S PARADISE won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A former New York City criminal defense attorney, Corleone now resides in the Hawaiian Islands, where he writes full-time. NIGHT ON FIRE is his second novel. You can visit him at http://www.douglascorleone.com/